School Teacher Strived To Launch Students To The Moon

Moon landing photograph
Brooke Brown
March 19, 2020

In 1960, as the United States and Soviet Union battled to reach the moon first, one Zambian school teacher named Edward Mukuka Nkoloso had a special mission of his own planned.

Throughout the 1960s, Nkoloso helmed the National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy program in hopes of harnessing the brilliant scientific minds of his teenaged “afronauts” to do the unthinkable. 

Nothing would be the same once the press got word of his work.

Some, including members of the Associated Press called his plan to launch a team of teens, including one 16-year-old Matha Mwamba, into the stars absurd. 

But as filmmaker Nuotama Bodomo pointed out in an interview with Hyperallergic, “[the program] was completely bucking anything to do with proving ourselves for a Western gaze. It was completely out of it in a very affirming way.”

In a stunning rejection of respectability politics, Nkoloso wasn’t concerned with whether the optics appealed to outsiders. 

His audacity sent an important message - training his team and inspiring Zambian patriotism was the only concern worthy of his time and energy.

Although a lack of funding and personnel ultimately ended the program’s progress, we need to be as audacious in chasing our dreams as the Zambian space program. Don’t let the opinions of colonizing establishments stop you from rocketing to new heights of excellence.

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