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President launches Ghana’s Astronomy Observatory

By Ken Sackey, GNA  

Kuntunse (E/R), Aug. 24, GNA – President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on
Thursday launched the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory at Kuntunse, a
development set to put Ghana on the pedestal of countries that are into space
science. 

The President said that the progress marked the beginning of a new era
in Ghana’s quest to harness the potentials of Space Science and Technology for
accelerated socio-economic development.

This development makes Ghana the second country in Africa to own such
facility after South Africa.

The President said the new era would not only witness the deepening of
knowledge and skills development in electronics and information and
communications technology, but also enhance the capacity of scientists to
contribute to the world body of knowledge in the ever expanding field of
astronomy and space science.

At a short ceremony before cutting the tape to officially open the
observatory at the lush foothills of Kuntunse, President Akufo-Addo recounted
how, in 2007, the country, under the leadership of President John Agyekum
Kufuor, took the bold decision to sign up to the African Square Kilometre Array
(SKA) partnership agreement, spearheaded by South Africa, which involved seven
other African countries.

This decision, he explained, was made at the time when Ghana did not
have any programme in astronomy, and was an example of the bold and visionary
leadership of the time.

Its purpose is to propel the country to the enviable league of countries
pursuing space science.

Ghana, by this feat, has become the first partner country of the African
Very Long Baseline Interferometer Network to complete the conversion of the
32-metre Intelsat Telecommunications Satellite Earth Station at Kuntunse into a
functioning radio telescope.

A second phase of the 32-meter antenna involving more engineering work
would be carried out to help increase the sensitivity and speed of the dish
from 0.09 degrees per second to 0.3 degree per seconds.

The first phase of the observatory involved the structural work of the
antenna, electrical works and the total configuration, which used to be a
redundant telecommunications dish belonging to Vodafone Ghana that used to
point only to one direction.

President Akufo-Addo expressed the hope that the “integration of this
radio telescope into the African Very Long Baseline Interferometer Network, in
preparation for the second phase construction of the Square Kilometre Array
across the African continent, will be successful.”

He said the recent successful launch into orbit of GhanaSat-1, a
satellite developed by three students from All Nations University College in
Koforidua, in partnership with their Japanese counterparts at Kyushu Institute
of Technology, indicated that Ghana abounded in talent, expressing Government’s
pleasure to see Ghanaian talents shining, with even greater promise for the
future.

The President reiterated the commitment of Government to continue to
develop the human capital needed for a sustainable implementation of the
country’s space programmes, particularly enhancing the nation’s human resource
capacity in astronomy research.

“We have big plans for our national space development programme. These
include the establishment of a National Space Data Centre for satellite data
collection, management and application. This comprehensive programme will
involve the establishment of a national satellite ground receiving station and
the launch of satellites,” he said.

“The radio telescope, being launched today, will expand further our
frontiers in space science. I am informed that the radio telescope will provide
information from distant bodies in the universe that will help us understand
the birth and formation of stars, the death of stars and the general structure
of the universe.”

President Akufo-Addo expressed optimism that the observatory would
enable Ghanaians appreciate the reality and complexity of global warming and
its harmful effects such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion, erratic
rainfall patterns, prolonged and intense dry seasons, desertification and reduction
of vegetation cover on their lives.

“It is for this reason that we, as humans and care-takers of our earth,
should not compound the pressures on our fragile planet through harmful
activities, such as illegal mining and logging and the production of greenhouse
gases,” he added.

Recognising the role of science and technology in the socio-economic
development of the country, President Akufo-Addo said he had charged the
Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and
Innovation to step up efforts in developing a potent science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) education model for Ghana.  

That, he said, would stimulate the interest of pupils and students in
engineering sciences and technology.

With the establishment, shortly, of a Presidential Advisory Council on
Science, Technology and Innovation (PACSTI), President Akufo-Addo reiterated
his pledge of raising, significantly, funding for Research and Development
(R&D) in science, technology and innovation from 0.25 per cent to 1 per
cent of GDP in the short to medium term, and increased further to 2.5 per cent
in the long term.

“It will form the National Science, Technology and Innovation Fund to
support R&D in all research Institutions and Universities, both public and
private. At the same time, Government will make efforts to increase
collaboration among research institutions, industry, especially the private
sector, and political authorities at all levels.

“These measures, I hope, will make the transition from research to
product development and industrial production much easier,” he added.

GNA

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