i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Launching the ‘African Heritage From Space’ Series: Namib Desert (AHFSS 1)

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 18, 2010

Africa is blessed with a rich social, moral and cultural heritage, there is no doubt about that. The land is also rich in bountiful stores of natural resources. It’s people however are its greatest assets and these have made their mark not only on the continent but indeed all over the globe and even in space exploration. That is Africa.

Of particular significance though, is the uniqueness and beauty of Africa’s geophysical structure. It’s breathtaking landscapes, lush greenery, magnificent forests, cascading waterfalls, gorgeous hills and mountains, “proud ancestral savannas”, and seering yet awestriking deserts, are some of the features that have made Africa the prime allure of explorers, the daring and adventurous for centuries.

The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) lists ecosystems and biodiversity as two of its themes and societal benefit areas. Space technologies can play a major role in supporting efforts at conserving the state of our environment. These efforts thus need to be augmented through the use of earth observation and other space capabilities in environmental monitoring and conservation. There is an increasing role to be played by the integration of technologies in development aims because they offer boundless opportunities to optimize resources and increase efficiency.

The ‘African Heritage from Space Series’ is being launched to connect these potentials of space technology to the God-given magnificence of Africa’s ecosystems and entire landscape. This will showcase the varied scenes of beauty that exist in different parts of the continent as seen through the eyes of space-borne instruments. Furthermore, like apples of gold in settings of silver, each image would be set within the context of what is and what could be.

The first image in this series is of the Namibian Desert and it was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 22 on the International Space Station (ISS). It is made available through the NASA Earth Observatory.

Tsauchab River and Sossus Vlei Lakebed, Namibia (NASA)

The Namibian desert extends for about 81,000 sq. km. and it is from this Namib (Nama for vast) desert that the country of Namibia gets its name. The driest desert in Africa and the oldest in the world, this richest of sources for diamonds captivates endlessly with its awestriking dunes that remind one of the Martian landscape. It has a unique blend of animal and plant varieties that make up its ecosystem. One of the most popular of these is the Welwitschia mirabilis with its single pair of leaves, existing in an order of its own. See a video of the desert and its enchanting features below.

The desert has long inspired paintings, photographs, poems, historical writings and other works of art. It has also had its fair share of scientific study. The sand dunes pictured in this image are the tallest in the world, reaching up to a height of 300 metres above river bottom. The desert however is one of the world’s driest and the future of its species, though rugged, is a concern for conservationists and environmental biologists. It is also a location for mining ventures which together with farming, if not carefully monitored, could further pose a challenge to its ecostability. It is a coastal desert that is gradually encroaching westward to reclaim land from the ocean.

You can explore the area further here

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