MATJIESFONTEIN, South Africa, Nov 8 (Reuters) – A new deep-space ground station being built in South Africa’s semi-desert Karoo region will come online by 2025 to help track NASA’s historic missions to the Moon and beyond, space agency officials said Tuesday.
Through its Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman or person of color on the moon by 2025, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is aiming for the maiden launch of its rocket this month. generation, delayed for weeks by technical setbacks and bad weather.
“Next week, we should expect to launch the first flight of Artemis,” said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator and head of NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) unit.
“It’s not until 2025 that we’re going to send the third Artemis and the third Artemis will land astronauts on the moon, and…the first person to land on the moon (this time) will be a woman of color” , Younes told Reuters.
“It will be one of three stations supporting communication with all of our astronauts on and around the Moon and providing viable services to our entire Moon to Mars program,” Younes said at a ceremony to signature in the small village of Matjiesfontein, 237 km (147 miles) north of Cape Town.
Matjiesfontein, which is only the third main site developed in the world, will be part of a network of other ground stations in the United States and Australia. Designed with an antenna array, including a 20-meter (22-yard) diameter three-stage dish purchased by NASA, the station will help improve coverage and redundancy to support critical missions to the moon, Mars and beyond, officials said.
The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) will establish, operate and maintain the station.
Close to the main communication and transport infrastructures, the isolated site was chosen because of its geographical location with clear skies and low radio interference.
South Africa has committed an initial amount of 70 million rand ($3.93 million) to build the infrastructure and communications needed to prepare the site, as part of the government’s investment in construction its space infrastructure and research base.
“NASA wouldn’t come to South Africa if they didn’t feel we have the capabilities to do the work in partnership with them,” said Phil Mjwara, director general of the South African Department of Science and Innovation. .
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Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Jonathan Oatis
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