UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science & Sports Medicine
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town
Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa
Tel: + 27 21 650 4561
Fax: + 27 21 686 7530
It is the truly innovative who add inspiration, example and challenge to our more mundane lives.
In December 1967, the late Professor Christiaan Barnard became Africa and the world's first surgeon successfully to save the life of another human by transplanting a human heart. The inspiration he provided had little to do with the technical achievement, which could have been matched by many in the rest of the world, but arose from the personal courage Professor Barnard displayed in risking his professional standing and academic career in the search for what he believed to be the long-term interests of humanity. His achievement promoted a global recognition of the international standard of medical science in South Africa at the time.
In 2000, another South African, Mark Shuttleworth, received global recognition following the sale of his innovative concept for safe payment on what has become the "heart" of the information era of the 21st Century, the internet. Mr Shuttleworth proved that intellect and business savvy are not the exclusive dominions of the first world nations of Europe, Asia and North America.
Mr Shuttleworth now wishes to use proceeds from his financial windfall, together with his international status, to promote an appreciation of scientific research and so develop a culture of inquiry amongst the youth in South Africa. He proposes that space flight, the product of a massive scientific effort over the past 40 years, provides the ideal vehicle to promote his beliefs in the value of science. As a result he is currently in training for a possible space mission with Russian cosmonauts, in April 2002 during which he wishes to undertake relevant scientific research. The aim of the research is to provide unique information of value to Africans, at the same time promoting his concept of the importance of research and innovative thinking for the solution of Africa's unique social and other challenges.
On behalf of the Scientific Panel invited by Mr Shuttleworth to oversee the research programme that he wishes to undertake whilst in space, I commend this initative to you. It takes a person of vision to strive for what Mr Shuttleworth desires. In so doing he provides a serious opportunity for the world's scientists to undertake unique research, whilst at the same time promoting a better understanding of what it is that we scientists do and why our work is of such fundamental value to the world.
I personally commend Mr Shuttleworth for his initiative, vision and commitment to a deeply felt personal ideal.
I trust that you will join us in this exciting adventure even if, like me, you prefer to keep your feet on the ground!
Professor Tim Noakes MBChB, MD, FACSM
Professor in the Discovery Health Chair of Exercise and Sports Science in the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.