A long-standing fascination with space prompted a resident of Thembeni, Groutville, to write a children’s book that garners attention across the country.
Thabani Mazibuko, a doctoral student in space technologies for sustainable tourism development, is passionate about exposing township and rural dwellers to a subject he thinks people know little or nothing about.
He has been invited to schools, TV shows and news channels to talk about space technology and his book: Mangwe The Space Boy.
“Space technology” is defined as technology designed to travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
The story details the adventures of Mangwe, a simple herd boy who becomes an astronaut.
The 37-year-old father-of-2 named the book after his one-year-old son Mangwe and based the story on his own childhood.
Mazibuko grew up in the countryside of Ulundi, where he tended his village’s cattle.
“With my friends, we read and used sticks of cow dung and clay soil to design airplanes, space rockets and even cows. I had a passion for drawing the Earth and the planets.
But it was many years later traveling abroad and visiting the India Science Museum (Hi-Tech City) in Bangalore that inspired him to make his dream come true.
Today, he is President and Founder of the South Africa Space Technology for Sustainable Development Foundation (SASTSDF).
The foundation, he said, focuses on promoting innovations through artificial intelligence, nanosatellites and space science as a solution to several challenges facing society in sectors such as health, tourism, agriculture and water purification.
For example, using satellite communications and remote sensing data, scientists are able to find sources of groundwater on Earth.
His organization was a finalist in the African Earth Observation Space Technology Challenge 2020.
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The competition aims to develop the African space industry, especially the downstream sector, by empowering innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups in the space technology sector.