The South African National Space Agency(SANSA) owns and operates a suite of instruments at the South African Nation Antarctic Expedition base, SANAE IV, in Droning Maud Land, Antarctica. The infrastructure operates all year round and provides near real-time data, critical to the provision of services, which protect the country’s national assets, both in space and on the ground, against the adverse effects of Space Weather phenomena.
Long term data sets are also collected throughout the year and repatriated to South Africa using the polar logics and research vessel the SA Agulhas II. This data is used for fundamental research in the fields of Geomagnetism, ionospheric and magnetospheric physics to enhance the understanding of the interactions between the sun and our near-Earth-Space environment.
SANSA recruits and trains two electronics engineers each year that spend 14 months in Antarctica, looking after and operating SANSA’s instrumentation network.
During the austral summer, SANSA also sends a team of engineers on the SA Aguhas II to participate in the relief voyage and to conduct maintenance and upgrades on the equipment.
During this time, the agency also sends replacement engineers to take over from the current engineers, who then return to South Africa to reunite with their families.
The SA Agulhas II left for Antarctica with six SANSA team members on board. The expedition will last approximately 76 days and return on or around the 26th of February.
On the expedition, SANSA is represented by two staff members, Mr Stephanus Schoeman (Team Leader and Expedition Chief Land-based Scientist) and Mr Thomas Chauque. They will be joined by two volunteers, Ms Camilla Smyth and Ms Tumi Molamu as well as the two SANSA, SANAE-59 overwintering engineers, Mr Vhulahani Manukha and Mr Pierre Retief; both will spend the 14 months in Antarctica and return in 2021.
They will replace the SANSA’s SANAE-58 overwintering engineers, Mr Travis Duck and Ms Mpati Boleme, who is currently stationed at the base, who will return on the SA Agulhas in February 2020.
According to Jonathan Ward, the agency’s Engineering and Data Acquisition Manager, by all accounts, the expedition is going very well, and SANSA will complete all of its planned tasks on schedule.
Ogechi Onuoha is a Cambridge Certified ESOL editor with a background in reporting, international relations, creative writing and adept in industry research and analysis. She is passionate about curating and evaluating the benefits/relevance of space to grassroots development and women’s participation in the space sector.