Breaking the Space Borders

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Caroline Njoroge
Member since February 28, 2017
  • 11 Posts
  • Age 24

It was a glorious day. The temperature was exceedingly high that particular afternoon and the sky was bluer than the iconic dress Lupita Nyong’os wore when she put Kenya on the pedestal claiming the coveted Oscar. Again, history was being made as the Space Shuttle KE17 was about to depart from the Nairobi Aeronautical Space Station at approximately 1600hrs. The year was 2085 and Munyaka Wanjagi sat in the women’s changing room dressing for what was going to become the most memorable day of her life. She couldn’t help but feel the sweat trickle off her back as she put on the final piece of the space suit with the Kenyan flag proudly printed on the side.

Munyaka sat for a minute to take a swig of water. “Thirty minutes till blast off, all space crew to assemble at the brig”, the overhead speakers announced, a heavy male voice with a slight Meru accent. Munyaka grabbed her notebook from her locker and flipped to the first page where a torn old photo with a young father and child smiling was stuck. Below it was written just four short words: My little space monkey. Munyaka couldn’t help but grin and smile. Her mind went back to the days when she was young and would spend time doodling the stars, moon and planets in the backyard of her childhood home. She vividly remembered having a wild mind of sorts- spending more time re-watching Cosmos and A Space Odyssey and going to the library to absorb every book she could find on outer space. As the years went by, she continued to bloom and her obsession with travelling to space grew. Luckily, the space travel industry was growing in sub Saharan Africa. The newly funded KASA (Kenya Aeronautics Space Administration) was setting greater heights to get the first Africans to space and ,eventually, to Mars where a colony of human settlements had already been established.

Munyaka turned 20 and had finished her Masters in Physics and Mechatronics from the University of Nairobi and was ready to approach the major players in the space industry. Having set her mind on KASA she was 100% sure she would be accepted into the space program that was set to train the workforce for the space station. She went to the space station to take her applications personally to the recruitment office, but alas she was denied to the program. With every passing day and watching the various documentaries showing the male dominated institute, she felt hope dwindling.

Finally a breakthrough happened and she was called to intern for KASA for three months at their engineering division. This was no short feat as she was the first woman in the engineering division. Even though from day one she got endless stares from her male work mates, she was never deterred in any way and set out to be a sponge and absorb everything. Two years in she was given a contract and worked on the space shuttles. The space agency soon announced that it required people for a space mission. Munyaka saw this as an opportunity to finally achieve her lifelong dream. She quickly applied for the role and spent weeks keeping her fingers and toes crossed that they would accept her application.

Then it came. She swore that her acceptance letter was literally the most beautiful thing she had seen in her twenty eight years on earth. She had broke through the barrier and today after 12 months of intensive training she would be the first Kenyan and African woman to go to space. Her valid dreams were today becoming a reality. She broke out of her train of thoughts and took her helmet. She took a deep breath and walked towards the brig.

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