South Africa station to help NASA track missions

STORY: This site in South Africa will soon be a key part of NASA’s history-making return to the Moon... and beyond.

Located about 130 miles from Cape Town, Matjiesfontein will be home to a deep-space ground station.

The site will help track NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and person of color on the moon by 2025.

It will include a three-story-tall dish, and as part of a network of other ground stations in the U.S. and Australia - it will help improve coverage and redundancy for critical mission support.

Phil Mjwara is the head of South Africa’s department of science and innovation.

“NASA would not come to South Africa if they didn’t feel that we have capacity to do the work that they want us to do in partnership with them.”

NASA official Badri Younes was on hand to break ground at the site.

“We are looking forward to it. This is going to be one of three stations supporting the communication of all of our astronauts in and around the moon and providing viable services to our entire moon to Mars programs.”

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) will establish, operate and maintain the station.

The site was chosen because of its proximity to key infrastructure, geographic location and low radio interference.

South Africa has made an initial investment of nearly $4 million, and the site is set to come online in 2025... the same year NASA is planning to return astronauts to the moon.