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24 Jul, 2023 12:23

South Africa to send female astronauts to ISS – agency

The mission will happen in “a few years,” an official in Pretoria has said
South Africa to send female astronauts to ISS – agency

South Africa’s National Space Agency (SANSA) intends to send two female astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), its executive director, Humbulani Mudau, said in an interview published on Sunday.

The women’s space mission is scheduled to take place in the “next few years,” Mudau told the head of Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, the news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Sara Sabry became the first person from Egypt and first African woman to travel into space in 2022. Mark Richard Shuttleworth, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, became the first South African man to travel to space as a tourist aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-34 in April 2002.

Roscosmos has engaged in joint space missions with various governments, including the United Arab Emirates, allowing the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Ali Almansoori, to journey to the ISS in 2019. The flight took place aboard a Soviet Soyuz rocket with a Russian cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut.

A female Belarusian cosmonaut is also scheduled to fly aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-25 in March 2024.

Roscosmos announced plans last month to expand its space partnerships with African countries. According to its director, an agreement will be signed with a number of the continent’s nations at the Russia-Africa summit this week in St. Petersburg.

In June, a Moscow delegation visited Cairo and met with Sherif Sedky, the head of the Egyptian Space Agency, to discuss ideas for space cooperation, including satellite production and launches, manned program development, and surface space infrastructure.

Russia and South Africa have had a space development program to facilitate collaboration for the launch of locally manufactured satellites in Pretoria since President Vladimir Putin and his former counterpart Thabo Mbeki signed an agreement in 2006.

SANSA disclosed a bilateral agreement with Roscosmos in 2021 to construct a PanEOS antenna facility, a Russian project designed for the automatic detection of space debris in near-Earth orbits.