Ethiopia sets sights on space with Entoto Observatory


Ethiopia is set to emerge as the premiere centre for astronomy and space observation in Africa, following the start of a new government programme.

The Entoto Observatory and Research Centre came under state authority earlier this month, when the Ministry of Science and Technology was handed the keys by the Ethiopian Space Science Authority.

The move is part of the Ethiopian government’s plan to overhaul the country’s space efforts, investing in resources to give space science an ever-increasing role in the economy of the East African nation.

“The Centre has offered unique opportunity for the next generation of Ethiopian scientists to pursue advanced studies in the sector,” Tefera Walwa, Society Patron and Centre Board Chairperson, told The Ethiopian Herald.

Awareness of the important role that the space sector can play in society has been rapidly spreading  in the scientific and academic communities. The involvement of the government in this project emphasises the growing importance of the space industry.

The Ethiopian Space Science Authority was founded by three eager astronomers in 2004, and has since expanded to a 10,000-strong organisation. The multi-million dollar Entoto Observatory and Research Centre, perched on a 3,200m summit, is a prime place to view Orion’s belt, and, along with the authority, was funded by a consortium of private donors.

Now under the wing of the Ethiopian government, the observatory, and the wider space initiatives, will be given increased funding and national attention – and infused with the resources of a technologically forward-thinking government.

In a country rocked by famine, critics may say that investing in a space programme is not a priority. However, the Ethiopian government has key reasons.

Addis Ababa has committed to marrying space, technology, and education to achieve key development goals. The nation aims to reach middle income status by 2025, and sees investing in technology and education as key to this.

“It was our priority to convince the government – now they have been convinced,” said Dr Solomon Belay Tessema, director of the Ethiopian Space Science Society.

While the use of modern space technology to solve terrestrial problems is a modern developments, Ethiopia has never been a stranger to astronomy and space observation. It is said that the practice began many thousands of years ago, tied to agriculture.

Even the most ancient constellations have ties to Ethiopia. The constellation Cassioepia was first listed by ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century, and it is linked to the land.

It was named for the legend of Cassioepia, a queen of Ethiopia whose beauty was said to be beyond compare. According to the myth, she was struck down by the gods of Olympus for her vanity and arrogance, and chained to a throne in the heavens for all eternity.

Ethiopia cements its astronomical past, and through government funding, will embolden the space sector, driving the nation relentlessly into the future.


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