NASA astronaut to pique interest in science – BuaNews Online (press release)

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 25 Oct 2010
Title: NASA astronaut to pique interest in science

Pretoria – An astronaut from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is to hold a series of public lectures to increase awareness of science through astronomy.

The astronaut, Dr Jeff Hoffman, will be accompanied by Dr Robert Williams, President of the International Astronomical Union, and Professor Charles McGruder of Western Kentucky University.

This is a timely visit considering that Africa is bidding to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

If Africa wins the bid to host the SKA, this would mean an investment of about $15 billion in Africa over 50 years. The majority of the investment would go to South Africa.

As part of the bid, South Africa is building the Karoo Array Telescope (MeerKAT), which will be a world class telescope in its own right.

Dr Hoffman, who became an astronaut in 1979, was assigned to the shuttle space flight missions to repair the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This is regarded as one of the most successful telescopes ever built in terms of recognition by the public.

He was also one of the four spacewalking astronauts for the first HST servicing mission in 1993. He last flew on the Shuttle Columbia.

In his five space flights, Hoffman has logged more than 1 211 hours in space, covering more than 34.6 million kilometres.

Dr Williams is tasked with growing astronomy interest internationally and arranges public lecture tours by NASA astronauts.

Prof McGruder is an astronomer who will give public lectures on the science of the SKA.

The lectures will take place from 8 to 15 November in Johannesburg, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Durban and Cape Town. – BuaNews