The second United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE ’82) held in Vienna, Austria, recommended that the United Nations Programme on Space Applications (PSA) should focus its attention, inter alia, on the development of indigenous capabilities in space science and technology at the local level. The United Nations General assembly (GA) endorsed that recommendation in its resolution 37/90 of 10th December 1982.
The GA in its resolution 45/72 of 11th December, 1990 also endorsed the recommendation of its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COUPOS) that the United Nations should lead, with the active support of its specialized agencies and other international organizations, an international effort to establish regional Centres for space science and technology education in existing national/regional educational institutions in the developing countries (A/AC. 105/456, annex II, para 4). This endorsement of the GA was in recognition that an essential pre-requisite to successful space technology application was the building of indigenous capabilities, particularly human resources, within each region. In particular, the endorsement recognized that if effective administrative and appropriate applications of space technology were to succeed in the developing countries, efforts must be devoted at the local level to the development of necessary high level knowledge and expertise in space technology related fields.
In various United Nations documents, A/AC 105/498 of 1992 and A/AC 105/534 of 1993, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) outlined a number of steps to translate the GA resolutions mentioned above into operational programmes. One of these steps was the organization of an evaluation mission to each of the Countries, in each region, that offered to host the Centre. In Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe offered to host the centre.
THE CENTRE IN AFRICA
In a statement issued on the 15th of September 1995, by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Nigeria was chosen to host for the benefit of Anglo-phone Countries, the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education (ARCSSTE-E), (ref. UN DOC A/AC 105/434). A similar Centre for the benefit of Francophone countries in Africa has been established in Morocco. The host institution in Nigeria for the ARCSSTE-E is the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. ARCSSTE-E is expected to cater for the educational needs of Anglophone Countries while the Centre in Morocco will basically do the same for Francophone countries.
ARCSSTE-E operates under the auspices of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja, which is also an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Nigeria.
In addition to the primary goal of the Centre, the immediate objectives of the Centre are to:
- Develop the experts and knowledge of university educators, environmental research scientists, communication engineers and others in the four principal areas of remote sensing/Geographical Information Systems, satellite meteorology, satellite communications, and basic space and atmospheric science;
- Assist educators to develop environmental and atmospheric sciences curricula that can be used to inculcate and advance the knowledge of the students in space science and technology;
- Assist research scientists and project personnel in preparing the space-derived information for presentation to the policy and decision makers in charge of national and regional development programmes;
- Enhance regional and international co-operation in space science and technology programmes;
- Assist in disseminating to the general public, the value of space science and technology in improving the every day quality of life;
- Stimulate the use of satellite communication in the improvement of telecommunications and information networks; and
- Ensure that African Countries are part of the Global Information Society using leapfrog technologies provided by the satellite communications.
LONG – TERM OBJECTIVES
On the long run, ARCSSTE-E is expected to:
- Contribute to sustainable development of natural resources (air/ water/ land) and provide an input for biodiversity conservation and other related environmental programmes through and development of in-depth knowledge and skills of educators, research and applications scientists, engineers and others in environmental information system with emphasis on remote sensing, satellite meteorology and relevant technologies at local level.
- The ARCSSTE-E will result in the development of indigenous capability in the region so that the latter may design and implement education research and applications programmes, initially in the environmental and natural information systems. This process should equip participating member states of the region to provide the skills and knowledge needed, especially in space based Earth Observing Systems, so that satellite-based date can be used in Geographical Information System (GIS) in order to implement national development programmes, particularly those in Agenda 21.
- The successful establishment of programmes in education, research and applications, with emphasis on Earth Observing Systems (EOS) for sustainable development, will have a multiplying effect, fuelled by national motivation and commitments. The international co-operation will result in the capacity building to:
Enable each country to enhance its knowledge and experience particularly in those applications areas (air, water, land) that have the potential for greater impact on each country’s socio-economic development, including preservation of its environment,
Utilize data from EOS for weather prediction and monitoring of severe storms and other natural phenomena so the appropriate disaster management and mitigation programmes may be undertaken; Enable each country to support research and development (R&D;) efforts in its national institutions, especially those dealing with the understanding and application of environmental information systems;
Develop an environmental and atmospheric sciences curricula that can be easily taught and demonstrated at the high school and university levels in each country and to effectively prepare the educators to teach classes in these disciplines on their return to their institutions;
Participate in regional and international environmental programmes such as the international Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and to contribute to the understanding and support of international actions on the issues as global warming and climate change, ozone layer depletion, global deforestation, land degradation and management of coastal marine environmental, among others.
- Satellite communications technology provides a vehicle for all countries to leapfrog into the provision of modern telecommunications and information network services. The programme of the centre in satellite communications will be geared towards the development of the satellite communications technology in the provision and/or improvement of the following in member countries:
Rural telecommunications (Africa has about 70% of its population in rural areas).
Tele-education and distance learning-virtual classrooms.
Telemedicine for the improvement of health care delivery, especially in rural areas
Communication broadcasting services
In addition, satellite communications technology will be developed to facilitate full internet connectivity in member countries using VSAT and other satellite communications techniques. The satellite communications in African member countries will be developed such that the countries will be part of Global Information Society.
The Centre will also expose the course participants to the emerging technologies in satellite telecommunications such as: Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and new techniques in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite systems. Satellite communications technologies such as the Global Mobile Personal Communication Satellite (GMPCS) systems will be part of the programme of the Centre.
- Part of the long-term goals of the Centre is to develop a critical mass of educators in basic sciences in all the participating African countries. Such a development will facilitate the inclusion of basic space sciences in the curricula of schools and universities in those countries. General and space astronomy, general space physics, etc; should become part of the core of the training of science students at the secondary school and university levels. Students at those levels should also have an appreciation of the technologies of liquid and solid fuels for rockets, and of satellite payloads.