By David Njagi
Kenya may have missed an opportunity to pitch the country’s might in the emerging astral tourism niche during President Barrack Obama’s visit.
Expectations were high that leaders at the frontline of the Nairobi Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) would showcase Kenya as a destination for astral tourism, as traditional spots continue to lose their lure due to among others, insecurity.
The Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies at the University of Nairobi (UON) defines astral tourism as a concept that seeks to understand the relationship between man and the universe through sky observation.
“Kenya is one of the countries that is geographically located and has certain observations that can assist humanity to understand other parts of the universe and where we came from,” argues Dr. Kibe Kiragu of UON.
According to Dr. Kiragu such information is disseminated by observing how celestial bodies like the stars, the moon and the sun behave in terms of Kenya’s position in the universe. It is a niche that can bring the country millions of dollars through astral tourism flow, he argues.
In 2013, the world converged in Turkana County to observe the first full solar eclipse to be witnessed only in Kenya, a spectacle that Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) acknowledges fetched the country bountiful in revenue.
In November last year, a Kenyan delegation was in Paris for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) event, which made the first pitch about the country’s potential in archeo astronomical sites and observatories.
But it was the hope that the government would take advantage of President Obama’s visit to make a case about partnering with the United States of America (USA), to develop Kenya’s space exploration programme that kept astral tourism proponents on edge.
Proponents were hoping that State House would revisit the 1973 affair where US President Richard Nixon gifted Kenya with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goodwill Rock, a sample that was collected from the moon.
A letter dated March 21, 1973, signed by President Nixon, and which accompanied the moon rock, confirms that the samples were transferred to foreign Heads of State, including Kenya.
“If people of many nations can act together to achieve the dreams of humanity in space, then surely we can act together to accomplish humanity’s dream of peace here on earth. It was in this spirit that the United States of America went to the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and what we have learned with all mankind,” reads the letter.
It further reads: “Once gifted, each of the goodwill moon rock samples became the property of the recipient entity and therefore was no longer subject to being tracked by NASA. As property of the nation or state, the goodwill rocks are now subject to the laws of public gifts as set by that country.”
However, Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro, argues that Kenya has a long way to go before finding a niche in astral tourism, but that should not stop the country from bouncing ideas.
“The relationship between Kenya and the US can only be strong because America represents the spirit of liberty, freedom and democracy,” says Sen. Ethuro. “We look forward to having great opportunities with America.”
In South America, archeo astronomical sites in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua earn the countries an enviable revenue stream through astral tourism.
Meanwhile, the Kenya National Space Secretariat, based at the Department of Defense (DOD) headquarters, declined to comment about the county’s position in space exploration, arguing that details shared with the public have to go through thorough scrutiny.