Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 – 24 September 2021
Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 September – 24 September 2021
Africa-European collaborations in planetary science


Africa-European collaborations in planetary science
Conveners: Barbara Cavalazzi, Fulvio Franchi | Co-conveners: Anita Heward, Valentina Marcheselli, Nigel Mason
Thu, 23 Sep, 14:20–14:50 (CEST)

Session assets

Discussion on Slack

Oral and Poster presentations and abstracts

Chairpersons: Barbara Cavalazzi, Fulvio Franchi, Valentina Marcheselli
Fulvio Franchi

Planetary and Space Science, and Technology (PSST) are playing a vital role in driving the Knowledge Economy and the 4th Industrial Revolution in Africa. An actioned commitment to PSST leads to greater security, safety, and agricultural productivity and drives human capital development (HCD) in high-tech sectors of the economy. PSST enthuses young people to pursue studies and ensuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). PSST for Africa means not only blue-sky research and skilled graduates in STEM disciplines but is also linked to socio-economic development as many countries have seen already the benefits for PSS technology and industry for agriculture projects, earth observation, communication networks, monitoring/prevention of disaster and geohazard, space defence and telemedicine amongst others.

To fulfil the ambitious goals set by the African countries in their space strategy documents, there is a desperate need of graduates in STEM-related disciplines, including PSST. Africa’s current stock of graduates with secondary- and tertiary-level skills is still highly skewed towards the humanities and social sciences, while the proportion of students in STEM averages less than 25%. Beyond the shortage of graduates in the PSST field, the development of a pan-African PSST agenda is hampered by the lack of coordination of the Higher Education Institutions that are currently offering PSST programmes and by the lack of standardization of such programmes and internationalization of the Institutions themselves.

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network (PAPSSN) aims to fill this gaps by implementing a continent-wide mobility scheme for students, academic staff and support staff working in any field related to PSST. The PAPSSN is a consortium composed of Higher Education Institutions and associated partners from Botswana (Botswana International University of Science and Technology, BIUST), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa University, AAU), Nigeria (University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN), South Africa (University of the Witwatersrand, Wits) and Zambia (Copperbelt University, CBU).

The PAPSSN project presents an innovative solution to the shortage of soft skills in Africa as it concentrates upon the consolidation of PSST in the area of remote sensing from space, planetary science, planetary geology, astrobiology, satellite technologies, astronomy and astrophysics, within the tertiary education system across the continent.

The overarching objective of PAPSSN is to support the development of a skilled and innovative graduate students’ community and improve their job preparedness for the growing PSST labor market and foster their capacity of operating local infrastructure, generating local data and engaging with the international community of scientists and entrepreneurs.

The PAPSSN project will sponsor a total of 65 bursaries over the next 5 years, including 36 MSc, 14 PhD and 15 for staff (academic and support staff). In conclusion, we believe that PAPSSN will improve the employability of students through a mobility programme that will prepare them for leading roles in the future PSST market that is expected to develop across Africa over the next decades.

How to cite: Franchi, F.: The Pan African Planetary and Space Science Network – PAPSSN, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-168,, 2021.

Sandra Benítez Herrera, Jorge Rivero González, Andrea Rodriguez Antón, Nayra Rodriguez Eugenio, Fabio del Sordo, Diego Torres Machado, Eduardo Monfardini Penteado, Mayte Vasquez, Felipe Carrelli, Demetrio Rodrigues, Alba Fernández-Barral, and Sarah Massalkhi

"Amanar: under the same sky" is a science outreach project organized by GalileoMobile, the Asociación Canaria de Amistad con el Pueblo Saharaui (ACAPS) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), with the aim to support and inspire the Sahrawi community from the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, using Astronomy. The initiative pays special attention to Sahrawi children and youth to awaken their interest in science and stimulate their imagination and critical thinking. The project also promotes mutual understanding and cultural exchange through the study and preservation of the Saharawi rich astronomical traditions and knowledge of the sky. Amanar was selected as a “Special Project” of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) centenary celebrations, and has received funding from the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development and the Europlanet Funding Scheme. It counts with the support and collaboration of international astronomical institutions and a significant number of local partners.

The first part was developed in three of the Canary Islands in summer 2019. It combined visits to the professional observatories with educational activities about the Universe and astronomical observations for the Sahrawi children who spend every summer in the islands together with Spanish families, within the long-standing “Holidays in Peace” program. The second part took place in October 2019, when a team of astrophysicists, science communicators and filmmakers visited the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf to promote Astronomy outreach activities in schools and donate telescopes and educational materials. Teacher workshops were also organized to encourage educators to use Astronomy as a didactic tool and contribute to the improvement of the quality of education in the region.

As a reaction to the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, the project provided follow-up capacity building for Sahrawi teachers through a pilot online training programme through WhatsApp, which is efficient to low internet connection and easier to use in their mobile phones. The program content was co-created with the teachers to ensure that was relevant to them. In total, 635 children, 83 teachers and 150 people from the general public participated in all the project activities. In addition, thanks to a collaboration with the Sahrawi Oral History Department, a series of interviews were organized with elders about their Astronomical knowledge. In 2021 we are expanding this study by awarding internships to young Sahrawi people, who will be trained on Ethnoastronomy and ethnographic data collection, so they are the ones leading the process of preserving their own culture and history.

In this talk, we will present the outcomes and best practices learned from the project so far, the planned actions to ensure long-term sustainability along with future visits to the camps. We will also discuss the global impact of this type of initiatives in the framework of Astronomy for Development.

How to cite: Benítez Herrera, S., Rivero González, J., Rodriguez Antón, A., Rodriguez Eugenio, N., del Sordo, F., Torres Machado, D., Monfardini Penteado, E., Vasquez, M., Carrelli, F., Rodrigues, D., Fernández-Barral, A., and Massalkhi, S.: Astronomy for Development actions in the context of long-standing refugee situations: the "Amanar: under the same sky" initiative, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-309,, 2021.

Sohan Jheeta

Currently there are low levels of access to high quality education and learning facilities in certain developing nations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, at best, some university facilities there are barely comparable to western high school levels and, at worse, they don’t even have modern laboratory equipment; the basics that they do have being relics from the 1960’s and 70’s. In addition, I know of at least one secondary school in Malawi where there are two “sittings” —a morning session for one set of pupils and an afternoon for the second. Both with the same teachers. That is to say, there is both the lack of qualified teachers and they cannot afford to expand the school. During the last six years I myself have been promoting science throughout parts of the developing world, principally through astronomy because this is one science which is common to humanity.


I have given numerous oral presentations on space in general, astrochemistry, astrobiology and astrophysics as well as helping to promote an interest in these subjects by holding specific workshops. Until now, I have been operating as a “one-man band” and the challenge is to encourage students to become involved and active in astronomy, astrophysics, astrochemistry and astrobiology (theastrocsiences) and then to support them should they wish to progress further and take up a career in these fields. There are many difficulties to overcome, including lack of awareness and inclusion with the wider world, as well as a severe lack of funding. The many talented and able students who could become assets in the field of astronomy are missing out and if only they had the opportunity, they could really develop their capabilities and become excellent researchers and astronomers. In order to even stand a chance of making this happen, we need liaison with European established organisations that can deliver both expertise, funding and definitive, quantifiable schemes which will raise the expectations of these students as well as the universities. The ultimate goal is to put astronomy on the curriculum. The interest I have so far been able to generate amongst students is intense and I have been inspired by their enthusiasm, so the time is now right to develop and widen these activities in a more organised and proactive manner and this is where NoRCEL comes into force.

Currently, NoRCEL is researching the possibility of setting up a virtual Science Education Institute which will be launched next year in conjunction with Professor Golden Gadzirayi Nyambuya of the National University of Science & Technology, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

How to cite: Jheeta, S.: NoRCEL and its Outreach in Sub Saharan Africa, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-9,, 2021.

Alessandra Marino and Gabriella Ghermandi

This paper synthesises and presents evidence from existing literature on how space projects and infrastructures built in the Global South have had – often unintended – negative impacts on local and Indigenous communities (Redfield 2000). The example of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in South Africa demonstrates that there are often competing priorities at play within space projects and that equitable practices must be at the heart of all space initiatives that aim to foster inclusive and just outcomes (Walker, Chinigo’ 2019). While dispossession due to space infrastructure has received recent scholarly attention, the ways in which the methods of scientific research reframe relationships and the sites of space research often remain invisible. This paper touches upon three areas where more equitable practices are needed to address historically crystallised asymmetries of power: 1) partnerships; 2) fieldwork; 3) approaches to science. I use Harding’s decolonial philosophies of science (2017) to instigate a dialogue with other disciplines and propose a change of practice in science. Fieldwork in analogue environments in Africa is used as an example of fostering collaborations and scientific endeavours that are actively anticolonial and combat the ways in which the Global North can be extractive in its approach to space projects on our planet. Can ethical frameworks be useful tools to appropriately consider the potential impacts of space projects and collaborations on local communities?


How to cite: Marino, A. and Ghermandi, G.: Why international space collaborations should be anticolonial, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-538,, 2021.

Priscilla Muheki Muheki, Edward Jurua, Eike W. Guenther, and Tom Mutabazi

Space Science and Astrophysics are currently emerging fields in most African countries and in particular Uganda. These two fields are known to be channels of socioeconomic development and as such need to be developed further in the different African countries. For this to be achieved, there is need to deal with the challenges in doing astronomy or space science research on the African continent for instance access to state of the art computational and observational facilities. Creating synergies between European and African countries offers a gateway to advancing astronomy in Africa. In East Africa, and in particular Uganda, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) is aiming at becoming a centre of excellence in Space Science and Astrophysics research. This has been possible through the funding from the Swedish International Development Agency through the International Science Programme at Uppsala University.
I will briefly highlight the different projects going on at MUST in both Planetary and Space sciences. I will then focus on the results obtained in our study on “stellar activity as an important factor for planet habitability”. This study was carried out in collaboration with the Thueringer Landessternwarte-Tautenburg, Germany.

How to cite: Muheki, P. M., Jurua, E., Guenther, E. W., and Mutabazi, T.: Status of space science and planetary sciences in Uganda: Building it through synergies with Europe, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-824,, 2021.

Prospery C. Simpemba, Golden G. Nyambuya, Denis Silungwe, and Yaki Namiluko

Zambia has been thriving on hired space technology for telecommunication, weather prediction, land and radar surveillance which has resulted into the country spending a lot of money for these technological services. This also compromises the reliability of the space technologies that are being used as the country has no full control over them. This concept note gives an overview of the recent space science activities in Zambia and the efforts being made in developing a guiding national space science policy. We highlight current research in space weather, ionospheric total electron content (TEC) measurements, remote sensing and meteorological predictions. These are linked also to the academic programmes being developed in the leading higher education institutions in the country.

How to cite: Simpemba, P. C., Nyambuya, G. G., Silungwe, D., and Namiluko, Y.: Overview of Zambia's drive for implementing space technology, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-825,, 2021.

Anuforoh Prosper, Tyra-Kaddu Mulindwa, Barlow Najmah, Jonathan Kabiito, Augustine Diyoke, Damilare Samuel, and Henry Nwogu

In the last century, there has been a broadening in the scope of science in Africa; which, in turn, has seen a widespread adoption of new technologies by most African countries and causing an explosion in the number of local and international science actors. But that development, many have argued, has yet to translate into a commensurate improvement in the overall condition of life and living on the continent. And even less so on the science ecosystem — a fact that has been most tellingly revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This opens up critical questions on the nature of science and how it is communicated, especially in the context of the cultural and ideological differences, which exist between the Global North and Africa. Science Talks Africa as a science communication platform emerged mostly out of the need to engage science from that perspective, and also to address the need for both empirical and ideological spaces in which science actors moderate the dialectics of existing and emerging science and technology in the context of Africa.

How to cite: Prosper, A., Mulindwa, T.-K., Najmah, B., Kabiito, J., Diyoke, A., Samuel, D., and Nwogu, H.: Science Talks Africa: Towards a Dialectics of an African Science Space, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-826,, 2021.

Bonaventure I. Okere and Nnaemeka D. Onyeuwaoma

Planetary science research was instituted at CBSS in 2016 with the mandate to study the planetary activities within our Solar System. Therefore, the research activities of group were categorized into two: Environmental and Life sciences. The environmental science team studies the physical evolution of the other planets in our solar system using data from various missions like MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN), while the life science team are looking at the probability of finding life elsewhere in our solar system. So far some of researches had been published by these teams, while more are various levels of development. Some of the researches are on evolutionary panspermia and meteorite sample analysis.

Our research activities have been enhanced through collaborations such as the PAPSSN project, analysis of meteorite samples at University of Witwatersrand in South Africa etc.

How to cite: Okere, B. I. and Onyeuwaoma, N. D.: Planetary science at the NASRDA-Center for Basic Space Science, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-837,, 2021.

Hasnaa Chennaoui Aoudjehane

Morocco is a treasure house of meteorites, most meteorites accessible to scientists and collectors in all over the world are originated from Morocco and surrounding countries. Collection of meteorites is essentially done in hot and cold deserts. Morocco has a large and safe Sahara where many nomads are living. A big community of meteorite hunters is well established. Nomads and hunters are good observers, they learned by practicing how to make the difference between terrestrial and extra-terrestrial rocks that represent an important source of revenue for them. Those meteorites are almost all exported. All classes of meteorites are found in the hot deserts including many rare and important for scientific research ones.

Since 2001, our team in the Hassan II University of Casablanca Faculty of Science Ain Chock is working on the promotion of meteorites in Morocco, Arab countries and Africa. Cosmochemistry courses has been introduced to the national curricula. Many PhD thesis has been prepared and defended. Since 2004 meteorite falls in Morocco have been classified and submitted to the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society by our team, including the exceptional fifth Martian meteorite fall in Morocco “Tissint”. Many valuable papers have been published on these falls.

On 2019, ATTARIK Foundation for Meteoritics and Planetary Science was created by our team and a group of passionate people. The aim of ATTARIK is to support the research of the PhD students on Planetary Sciences and to disseminate sciences through youth in cities and countryside. The Africa Initiative for Planetary and Space Science was launched on 2016 in Cape Town has similar objectives.

The Moroccan experience can be a good reference to development of planetary sciences in Africa and the Arab countries.

How to cite: Chennaoui Aoudjehane, H.: The Moroccan experience on Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-839,, 2021.

Barbara Cavalazzi, Anita Heward, Valentina Marcheselli, and Nigel Mason

Since its foundation in 2005, Europlanet has sought to reach out and engage with planetary scientists across the globe. Today, Europlanet has a global role to connect the international planetary community through the common aim of working together to explore and understand our Solar System and exoplanetary systems beyond. It is therefore both timely and necessary to put in place a framework for a community-led roadmap for global collaboration as part of Europlanet’s future development as both a Research Infrastructure and as a Society.

The Strategic Plan for Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure’s Global Collaboration and Integration Development that represents the outcome of a dedicated effort to define how to expand and intensify the new relationship between Europlanet and African, but also between Europlanet and North and South American and Asian collaborators, will be presented.

How to cite: Cavalazzi, B., Heward, A., Marcheselli, V., and Mason, N.: Europlanet 2024 RI - Global Collaboration and Integration Development, NA1-T4: Strategic Plan 2020–2024, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-841,, 2021.

Solomon Belay Tessema

Planetary Science in Ethiopia research has been emerged in Ethiopia based on the establishment of Entoto Observatory and Research Center (EORC) as well as special commencement of special graduate in three specialized fields such as (astronomy and astrophysics, space science, remote sensing and Geodesy). The installation of the twining optical telescope and ratification of national space policy has opened many opportunities to focus of planetary science research and training in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia has progressed in research, training, and technology and infrastructure development in planetary science, space technology and astronomy. This paper will focus on planetary science and related activities, current development and future prospects.

How to cite: Belay Tessema, S.: Planetary Science in Ethiopia, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-857,, 2021.