Space Suit of the Week

Spacesuit of the Week - Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Spacesuit of the Week - Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Spacesuit of the Week - Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Spacesuit of the Week - Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Cristina De Middel is a photojournalist. Her series “Afronauts” captures the narrative of Zambia’s failed attempt to put man on the moon in a dignified, triumphant light. Her dossier reads:

“Afronauts’ is based on the documentation of an impossible dream that only lives in the pictures.”

Zambia didn’t put space boots on the moon, but these photographs show a quilted portrait of not shattered, unattained dreams, but nationalist hope and determination. There’s some published pieces out there that tries to paint Zambia’s space ambitions in the 1960’s as an absurdity. If you wish to see Zambia unattained goals in that light, I can only wonder want you think of Newt Ginrich’s ambitions for a moon colony while running for office in a country that isn’t funding lunar exploration either. We all have ambitions. Here’s to the dreamers.

7 Comments Space Suit of the Week

  1. tonycpsu January 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Thanks, Alana. I really enjoy these photos, and I agree that we ought to resist the impulse to laugh at the dreamers, but the comparison between Zambia’s 1960s space program and Newt’s promise to colonize the moon by 2020 seems a bit strained to me.

    Zambia’s efforts to beat the U.S. to the moon were definitely in the “dream big” category, but the United States colonizing the moon in the next eight years has sort of a “been there, done that” feel to me. We could do it relatively easily if we committed the resources, but it would take away from other NASA priorities, and from other priorities in an increasingly-strained federal budget.

    All Gingrich seems to be dreaming about (other than himself being elected President twice) is that we could tweak the federal budget a bit to devote more money to a permanent presence on the moon. Weak tea, if you ask me, when compared to Zambia’s lunar dreams from 50 years ago.

  2. Petra January 27, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    aside from these being fantastic photos I find the story behind them intriguing. it’s so much easier to ridicule someone else’s dreams than to have your own…

  3. Alana ZimmerAlana Zimmer January 27, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Tony- I don’t really look at Ginrich’s moon ambitions as a “been there, done that”. It’s a monumental undertaking. Colonizing the moon would demand exorbitant resources well beyond the scale of funds that were poured into the Apollo and Mercury programs. Similarly, Zambia in the 1960s was hoping for nearly $700M from UNESCO for their space program. Both are ambitious. It’s a lofty investment well beyond simply tweaking a federal budget. True, Ginrich’s true ambitions are securing the affection of the space states- Florida, Texas, Alabama, etc.

    It’s ambitious and I can’t help but find some real inspiration in it even if it is beyond the scope of reality. National space programs are possibly the best organizations to encourage the growth of science, technology, and engineering in both education and industry.

    This isn’t in any way an endorsement of Ginrich, but I hope his ambitions for lunar colonization put the space program back into political dialogue. It would be nice to hear other presidential contenders way in a responsible fashion rather than just poking fun.

  4. tonycpsu January 28, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Alana,

    I’ve read recent cost estimates for moon colonization with 100 or so people would be in the $15B-$20B range, which would be far less in real terms than Apollo’s $25B price tag in early 1970s dollars. Even if you allow for cost overruns of 2-3 times the initial estimates for a hypothetical moon colonization program, you’re still well under the combined cost of Apollo and Mercury.

    $25B is a lot of money relative to NASA’s overall budget, but it’s a vanishingly small part of our country’s GDP. Even in this weakened economy, we’re still a very wealthy nation that could find $25B under the couch cushions of our federal budget over six or eight years (though not if we actually enacted Gingrich’s tax plan, but that discussion veers into areas well off-topic for this blog.)

    I guess what I’m saying is, sure, it’s great to have a Presidential candidate mentioning space exploration at all, but as dreams go, colonizing the moon seems rather pedestrian.

    But we can agree to disagree, and I certainly do enjoy the photos and stories you post here each week.

  5. RSB January 29, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    My favorite photo is the run up the hill. There’s something so encouraging about the satisfaction I imagine the guy will gain when he reaches the top.

  6. maura February 3, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    wow – these are great. the top 2 are my favorites. wonderful work.

  7. braxy29 February 9, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    that top one is just powerful.

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