Meet the Pioneering Community Members Assisting in Constructing a Deep Space Ground Station in Matjiesfontein

Hendrik Baadjies and Raymond Carolus are the first locals digging ground at the SANSA Matjiesfontein site. Source: Space in Africa

Hendrik Baadjies and Raymond Carolus are the first Matjiesfontein (MTJ) residents to get involved in the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) deep space ground station project through the company responsible for geotechnical investigations at the site. Community developer Riaan Willemse recommended the pair. 

Though born and bred in MTJ ten years apart, with Baadjies born in 1963 and Carolus in 1973, their lives share similar accounts. They both attended school until grade 6; they are married with three kids each, skilled in painting, bricklaying and carpentry, and their livelihood typically depends on odd jobs in the construction and road works industries around the Laingsburg municipality. 

When asked what he thinks about the project, Carolus said, “My hopes and dreams of being part of this project have come true.  I have semi skills in carpentry, plumbing, painting, and a code 14 license for driving trucks. I can manage a crane mounted on a truck and know how to use a water and ready-mix truck. I believe this project is an opportunity to use these skills.  I am in the age group of 50+, and jobs are not readily available for me.  It also means that sometimes I have to work far from home.  As a community, we are behind financially and economically because of few projects in the area.  Matjiesfontein is also far from shops and banks, so people struggle to put food on the table. Things are now difficult, but the SANSA project has brought us hope. It assures us that God is still out there, and he answered our prayers.”

Baadjies sees a bright future for the project and the youth in the community.  “This project will create a beautiful future for the Matjiesfontein community– especially for the young people. The old and young community looks forward to the change it will bring. I hope it can create permanent jobs”, he said.  When asked why he recommended the pair, Willemse said, “They are both very reliable and hardworking.  And most importantly, they are very excited and positive-minded about more work to follow”. 

“SANSA believes that MTJ ground station will stimulate economic activities by increasing tourism in the area and encouraging entrepreneurship. It has been our intention from the beginning to ensure that the MTJ community benefits in some shape or form, directly or indirectly, from our activities in the area”, commented SANSA Business Development Manager Tiaan Strydom.  

SANSA is renowned for world-class telemetry, tracking and command, antenna hosting, and launch support services. The new MTJ deep space ground station fulfils SANSA’s ambition to develop deep space exploration infrastructure with sophisticated equipment for communication with satellites, probes, rockets and terrestrial planets. Eventually, the site will form part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Lunar Exploration Ground Sites (LEGS).