NASA welcomes Wits delegation
- Wits University
Wits alumni give VC a guided tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi and a University delegation participated in a guided tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), located in Houston, Texas. The group was joined by Wits graduate Dr Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs Technology Inc.
Vilakazi, who as a young boy was fascinated by spaceflight and inspired by the Planetarium at Wits University (soon to be a Digital Dome) began the tour at the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center, also known as Houston, which is the facility that manages flight control for the United States human space flight programme, currently involving astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and the Artemis missions.
“It is wonderful to be at the heart of humanity’s reach to the stars, and at the same time, knowing how much potential our own space and aeronautics programmes at Wits are advancing. It should not be too long before our own South African flag can join those from other nations displayed here, with our own contribution to this special branch of human progress,” said Vilakazi.
Upon completion of the Mission Control Center tour, the group proceeded to the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, an astronaut training facility and neutral buoyancy pool operated by NASA. Its main feature is a large indoor pool of water, where astronauts train, refine spacewalk procedures, as well as develop flight procedures and verify hardware compatibility. Astronauts in spacesuits are weighted in the pool to achieve neutral buoyancy, which is close to the microgravity they will experience during spaceflight.
The tour ended at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility which houses mockups of the pressurised modules on the ISS which are primarily used for astronaut training and systems familiarisation.
“The tour of the NASA facility was a wonderful end to a fruitful tour of Texas by our Wits delegation. We have met many of our own notable alumni, made new friends and partners, and returned home with renewed enthusiasm for Wits’ own place at the leading edge of the global academy,” added Vilakazi.
The tour to NASA formed part of the Wits Advancement programme to the US, which included four alumni reunions, several donor meetings, and visits to universities and other entities to establish mutually beneficial partnerships. This forms part of the Wits Centenary Campaign.