DEPARTMENT OF ASTRONOMY
University of Cape Town - Private Bag - Rondebosch 7700 - South Africa
Telephone: (021) 650 - 2392
Fax No.: (021) 650 - 3342
E-mail address: FAIRALL@PHYSCI.UCT.AC.ZA
Prof. A.P. Fairall
I always wished I could have gone into space and, like most of us, I am envious as can be of Mark Shuttleworth. What is it going to feel like to ride that rocket, and what is going to be done up there? Well, part of the answer is that Mark is going to conduct scientific experiments. But is science so important that it deserves such attention and dedication?
Yes, the pursuit of science is seen as a fundamental force in any society that seeks to progress and to improve the overall quality of life. Whether he wants to be or not, Mark is about to become a role model to all aspiring 'space-age' youngsters and his endorsement of science is an opportunity not to be lost. He will be seen to be doing science, and the outcome of the experiments he conducts will in their own way contribute to our knowledge. Moreover it will be African science, and the first science carried out in space by the first African in space.
Space removes Earth's two biggest constraints - gravity and atmosphere - which so often inhibit observations and experiments. In the free fall of Earth orbit, the laws of Nature can proceed, as they must do throughout almost the entire universe. Without looking through the shimmering atmosphere of Earth, the rest of the universe can be observed with unmatched clarity.
I see this as a tremendous opportunity, both to conduct scientific experiments in space and to promote public awareness of science. I only wish I could also be up there!
Anthony Fairall B.Sc. Hons, Ph.D., Assoc. R.A.S.
Professor of Astronomy, University of Cape town,
Planetarium Director, Iziko Museums of Cape Town