There have been mixed reactions after Zimbabwe launched its first satellite into space.
While the government has expressed pride over the project, Zimbabweans took to social media to express outrage, saying there were other pressing matters for the country which was being ravaged by an economic crisis.
Responding to a tweet by government spokesperson Nick Mangwana about the launch of the satellite, @VNMzansi tweeted: “Government hasn’t paid basic education assistance module (BEAM) fees for vulnerable children, yet it promised free education in 2018. Minister Mthuli promised to pay teachers children’s fees by July, and we are now in October. 30 years ago — children in schools used to get free stationary.”
Another person tweeted: “We need hospitals, schools, ambulances, proper roads — these are the things we want, not a mission to space.”
Seeking clarity, @Brianhove asked in a tweet: “Kindly also share with us what are the benefits of this to the generality of Zimbabweans?”
Zimbabwe’s satellite, named ZimSat-1, was designed and assembled by three of the country’s engineers working with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.
The satellite is a CubeSat, a class of miniaturised satellite based around a form factor consisting of 10cm cubes.
ZimSat-1 was launched into space on Monday aboard a US National Aeronautics & Space Administration (Nasa) rocket after a delay caused by a fire alarm at Nasa’s control centre.
Zimbabwe’s space programme was launched in 2018 after the establishment of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (Zingsa), which was advanced $10m (R177.8m) to map farms through satellite imagery.
In a tweet, Zimbabwe finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the satellite launch was mentioned in a national budget statement from three years ago.
“Zimbabwe space satellite ZimSat-1 was launched into space today by Nasa. I announced it in the national budget statement three years ago, and it is now reality. Looking forward to development and launching of ZimSat-2 in the future,” said Ncube.
Once in orbit, ZimSat-1 will collect images of the country from space to help support research into enhancing mineral exploration, monitoring environmental hazards and droughts, and mapping human settlements and disease outbreak.