THE NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY REACHES AFRICA: NSS WELCOMES THE SOUTH AFRICA CHAPTER
This year, the National Space Society welcomed its newest chapter. The South Africa chapter is the first NSS chapter in Africa and is headquartered
at Buren High School in Cape Town. It has ten members and also three high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics) student achiever representatives. The three South Africa STEM Achievers (SASA – South African Space Association) student
representatives had the opportunity to visit the International Space Development Conference in May 2018. Dene, Skylar and Chantal demonstrated
their simulation of a VASIMR ion engine, attended various sessions, and connected with other NSS members. The South Africa
chapter of NSS looks forward to participating in NSS’ activities and sharing its accomplishments with the rest of the organisation.
A-MAN, Inc. was founded in 1991 by aerospace engineer and scientist Hildreth “Hal” Walker, an early pioneer in the field of laser telemetry
who, amongst other accomplishments, led the team and measured the distance from the Earth to the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar laser
ranging experiment in 1969, and by Dr. Bettye Walker, a former K-12 school principal, university professor and researcher who has initiated
many programmes to support STEM achievements of African-American, Latino, and other underserved students through education, mentoring,
the involvement of families, churches, communities, government organisations such as NASA, and industry.
The history of the South Africa chapter began in Southern California at A-MAN, Inc., which provides year-round programmes where students
participate in hands-on activities with laser beams, robotics, and computer labs, and the Odyssey IV Mobile SpaceLab, a full-scale simulator
of a science lab module of the International Space Station.
A-MAN, Inc. became the A-MAN STEM International Science Centre when it spread its programme to South Africa. In 1997, Hildreth and Dr.
Bettye Walker, along with 12 students and their families, embarked on a historic study tour of South Africa, “The 1997 Homecoming for the
Children.” The group had the privilege of meeting President Nelson Mandela, who was so impressed by the students that he delayed his next
appointment, asking them about their studies and goals. Mandela turned to the Walkers and had them promise that they would “Do for my
children what you have done for your children” by establishing a program in South Africa based on the A-MAN, Inc. educational concept.
Since 1998, A-MAN, Inc. Co-Founders have kept that promise, working in South Africa to establish A-MAN primary and secondary school-based
sites. There are 21 participating elementary and high schools. Thousands of students have completed the programme, including Nomathemba
Kontyo. At age 14, she wrote a prize-winning essay sponsored by the Planetary Society and visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory /
NASA in Pasadena, working beside scientists on the Mars Rover Project for two weeks. She was declared a Junior Astronaut and still carries
the title “NASA Girl”. She has since received her degree in Geology from the Western Cape University. Mandla Maseko, the first black
African to go to space (on a Lynx spaceship) became a Role Model for the A-MAN STEM programme in Cape Town.
A-MAN, Inc. has been involved with the National Space Society since 2010 through collaboration with OASIS, the Los Angeles chapter. Hal
and Bettye were invited to become involved with NSS and President Seth Potter then invited them to join the OASIS Chapter. In 2015 members
of OASIS A-MAN’s entry into the Global Learning X-Prize competition to design learning software for children in remote villages in Africa
to learn reading and arithmetic.
In 2016 A-MAN applied to become an NSS chapter and were admitted in 2018. The new South Africa chapter’s 10 members are comprised
of Aerospace Engineers, Rotary members and Cape Town business professionals. Because the Cape Town Chapter is headquartered at
Buren High School, there are STEM student achievers who are student associates. There will be 6 other High Schools who have students
who have participated in the A-MAN STEM Program who will be a part of the Student STEM Achievers associate membership of the Cape
Town Chapter. The three SASA students will hold forums for those schools and continue to motivate other students regarding STEM. Planning
will begin later this year for a Grand Opening of the Chapter at Buren High School in late February, 2019. Space technology companies
and officials from local and national organisations will be invited.
-Dr. Bettye Walker