Before NASA had plans to send women to the moon and beyond, ambitious Edward Festus Mukuka Nkoloso was well ahead of them with a plan to send a woman and two cats into space.
Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia’s National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, envisioned his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the race to the moon.
"We're going to Mars!" audaciously declared Zambian schoolteacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso in a 1964 newspaper op-ed.
The man gained international famed after a Time magazine article carried his plans in an article just after Zambia gained independence. Nkoloso claimed that the euphoria surrounding the independence and the liberation activism had been a distraction from his main mission. The journey to space.
The training methods used by the Academy well quite unconventional as compared to the direction the rest of the world had taken. Well, they can be said to be conventional considering that they were working with limited resources.
Time magazine's description of the Academy, which was not an official part of the new Zambian government, reads like a bizarre joke: "Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, 'the only way humans can walk on the moon.'"
This, according to Nkoloso, would train the men in the feeling of weightlessness in both space travel and re-entry. In addition, they used a tire-swing to simulate weightlessness.
There were several reports from newspapers that there were large sums of money, ranging from twenty million to two billion dollars, that Nkoloso requested from Israel, Russia, the U.S., the United Arab Republic, and UNESCO. (One reportedly saw “piles of letters from foreign well-wishers containing plenty of advice—but no money beyond a 10-rupee note sent by a space-minded Indian schoolboy.”)
Despite Nkoloso’s indifference as to which side of the Cold War would fund his space program, he insisted on keeping its details secret. “You cannot trust anyone in a project of this magnitude,” he said. “Some of our ideas are way ahead of the Americans and the Russians and these days I will not let anyone see my rocket plans.”
An interesting addition to Nkoloso's expedition was a missionary. Nkoloso revealed that he had been observing Mars from his ‘secret headquarters’ and had discovered that the planet was populated by a "strange race of primitive savages". Nkoloso had the hope of Zambia becoming the "controllers of the Seventh Heaven of Interstellar space". He guaranteed, however, that he would not force their conversion.
"I have warned the missionary he must not force Christianity on the people in Mars if they do not want it," Nkoloso wrote in his op-ed.
While the coverage surrounding the article seemed like a joke to many, some viewed it as an attempt by the West to mock the growing ambitions of Africans. It was quite evident in the satire that was engraved in title to the Time article which read, "Tomorrow The Moon."
Despite the different views and others describing him as a lunatic. The man represents an age when Africans dared to dream and take chances. An age that seems to be long gone. Men do not dare to take chances and compete on the global stage once more.
Header Image Credit: CNN