Northern Rhodesia had a drastically different history from Southern Rhodesia, as discussed in Rant # 128.
At a time most of the African colonies of England, France and Portugal were being given their independence Northern Rhodesia was joined with what was then called Nyasaland by the British gov’t to facilitate handling/management of post WW II regional problems.
These two countries did not have a large white population and the vast majority of native Africans objected to the merge. In 1964, yielding to popular demand, Northern Rhodesia became independent Zambia and Nyasaland became independent Malawi.
They entered the international community of countries without much experience in the ways of the industrial west.
Their emergence into independence was completely separate from White Rhodesia struggle to keep its gov’t, its country and agrarian way of life intact.
Zambia was getting to its feet; Rhodesia was just trying to keep its footing. People in those two contiguous countries woke up each morning to entirely different situations. In fact the world order was being re-organized. Zambia was in, Rhodesia was not.
Enormously different realities.
During this time the world was abuzz over the space race… and to make Zambia a player, Edward Mukaka Nkoloso created the Zambian National Academy of Space Research. It’s objective was to send a girl, 17-year-old Matha Mwambwa, and two cats to the moon.
There were also plans to send other Zambian astronauts, called Afronauts, to Mars.
The stated goals of the program were 1) to establish a Christian ministry to “primitive” Martians, and 2) to establish Zambia as the “Controllers of the Seventh Heaven of Interstellar Space.”
The moon-shot rocket, named D-Kalu 1, was a 10 foot x 6 foot drum-shaped vessel. Named after the first president, the Zambian National Academy of Space Research claimed it was made of aluminum and copper… which made it “space worthy.” The planned launch date was on October 24, 1964, Independence Day, and would take place from the Independence Stadium… though there is some suspicion that the grounds crew at Independence Stadium was against it.
To make the launch happen Nkoloso asked UNESCO for a grant of 7,000,000 in Zambian pounds. He also requested $1.9 billion from “private foreign sources.” However these request were not successful… for one reason the Zambian Ministry of Power, Transport and Communication reportedly had no information on the requests.
The program ran into staffing problems when Matha Mwambwa, the only known female Afronaut, got pregnant and left the program… plus what he said were “morale issues” due to the meddling media.
To address this negative media attention Nkoloso made the following public statement on November 3, 1964:
“I’ll have my first Afronaut on the Moon by 1965… (We) are using my own firing system, derived from the catapult… I’m getting my Afronauts acclimatized to space travel by placing them in my space capsule every day. It’s a 40-gallon oil drum in which they sit, and I then roll them down a hill. This gives them the feeling of rushing through space. I also make them swing from the end of a long rope. When they reach the highest point, I cut the rope — producing the feeling of free fall.”