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Regional News of Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Source: GNA

Ghana launches Space Science and Technology centre

Ghana on Wednesday launched a Space Science and Technology Centre, to develop and coordinate programmes in space science and technology for the socio-economic development of the country.

By its vision, the centre is expected to uncover and exploit the capabilities of science and technology for national socio-economic and technological development through cutting-edge research.

It is also to establish a centre of excellence in space science and technology, to foster teaching and learning as well as the commercial application of space research for the economic transformation of Ghana and West Africa.

The centre will focus on the coordination of implementation of projects and programmes in areas including remote sensing and geographic information systems, meteorology, astronomy and astrophysics, communication, as well as human capacity development.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and Vodafone Ghana, to allow the centre to convert vodafone’s redundant earth satellite station at Kuntunse, which has a 32-meter antenna into a telescope for research and developments in astronomy.

Professor Kofi Awoonor, Chairman of the Council of State, explained that the centre which was established by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) would undertake, spearhead, steer and manage all space science programmes, projects and research activities in the country.

He underscored the importance of investing in space science and technology, and added that “global space science and technology programmes have resulted in tremendous changes in some developed countries, in areas including communication, agriculture, industry, health and environmental management.

Prof Awoonor said: “The centre should be supported to research and manage exploration activities, especially as Ghana has now joined the league of oil producing countries.”

He expressed hope that the outcome of research undertaken would help improve science education in second cycle and tertiary institutions in the country.

Prof Awoonor said that, the centre would be indigenous to the needs of Ghanaians, meaning “it will adopt programmes to suit the needs of Ghanaians”.

He said the establishment of the centre was not only historic, but a bold step by Government to explore the benefit of applied space science and technology for the improvement and expansions of all sectors of the economy, and to serve as an avenue for job creation the country’s youth.

Prof. Awoonor indicated government’s commitment to the development of the centre, and expressed the hope that it would foster regional and international cooperation in space science and technology research and programmes, in order to achieve the expected goal for the development of Ghana and Africa.

He unveiled a plaque in honour of President John Evans Atta Mills, and opened an exhibition to showcase some of the programmes and activities of the centre, GAEC and the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences.

Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, expressed gratitude to the South African Department of Science and Technology, for supporting the centre through the African Kilometer Array Project, to establish the Ghana Radio Astronomy Project, which would collect data through its telescope at the Kuntunse station as part of the VLBI network of antennas of the world.

She said the centre currently has a staff strength of ten, headed by a Director, and is housed in the premises of GAEC’s School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, Atomic Campus.

Ms Ayittey explained that, Ghana stands to gain tremendously as the centre would focus on research, education and training.

She said the the centre would also focus on seismic and earthquakes monitoring, weather forecasting and climate change, natural resource management, management of tele-health facilities, aviation, agriculture and national security.

Ms Ayittey said that the journey to space science and technology development was long, with no short cuts, and called for investment in infrastructure and human capacity development.

“There are also several international obligations we need to fulfill, which include the signing and ratifications of conventions, collaborations and commitments in implementing global space progammes, in order to benefit from the global outer space programmes,” she said.

Ms Ayittey acknowledged the hard work and commitment of the Interim Committee, chaired by Prof. Francis Allotey, a Ghanaian renowned Mathematician.

She expressed gratitude to key partners, including the South African Department of Science and Technology and Vodafone Ghana, for supporting the establishment of the centre.**