Thousands of plumed warriors with spears and blunderbusses hunted elephants, hippos and buffaloes in the bush to provide a fitting repast for the independence day feasting. Along Northern Rhodesia's Congo border, Bemba tribesmen blasted homemade, muzzle-loading guns into the night. In Lusaka, the capital, representatives from more than 60 nations gathered to watch the lighting of a 6-ft. freedom flame marking the rechristening of Northern Rhodesia as Zambia and its proclamation as an independent republic within the British Commonwealth.So it was in the last days of the month of October in the year 1964 in Zambia. But as millions celebrated independence, not everyone was happy:
During the independence festivities only one noted Zambian failed to share in all the harmony. He is Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia's National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, "the only way humans can walk on the moon."The girl's name was Matha Mwamba. In a statement released on November 3, Edward Mukuka Nkoloso revealed the ambitions of the Zambian Space Programme had expanded to include Mars:
I’ll have my first Zambian astronaut on the moon by 1965. My spacemen are ready, but we’re having a few difficulties …we are using my own firing system, derived from the catapult…Writing for a newspaper, the visionary Nkoloso provided more details:
To really get going we need about seven hundred million pounds. It sounds a lot of money, but imagine the prestige value it would earn for Zambia. But I’ve had trouble with my space-men and space-women. They won’t concentrate on space-flight; there’s too much love-making when they should be studying the moon. Matha Mwamba, the seventeen-year-old girl who had been chosen to be the first coloured woman on Mars, has also to feed her ten cats, who will be her companions on the long space flight… I’m getting them acclimatised to space-travel by placing them in my space-capsule every day. It’s a 40-gallon oil drum in which they sit, and I then roll them down a hill. This gives them the feeling of rushing through space. I also make them swing from the end of a long rope. When they reach the highest point, I cut the rope — this produces a feeling of free fall.”
All is ready at our secret headquarters in a valley about seven miles from Lusaka. The rocket could have been launched from the Independence Stadium and Zambia would have conquered Mars only a few days after independence. Yes, that’s where we plan to go – Mars.UNESCO never came through with the ₤7,000,000, no rockets were ever launched, Matha Mwambwa got pregnant and was sent home, and to this day Zambia doesn’t lead the world in science. Edward Mukuka Nkoloso abandoned his dreams of space, and history has dismissed him as an amiable lunatic.
We have been studying the planet through telescopes at our headquarters and are now certain Mars is populated by primitive natives.
Our rocket crew is ready.
Specially trained space-girl Matha Mwambwa, two cats (also specially trained) and a missionary will be launched in our first rocket.
But I have warned the missionary he must not force Christianity on the people in Mars if they do not want it.
One other difficulty has been holding us up UNESCO has not replied to our request for ₤7,000,000, and we need that money for our rocket programme. Then we can lead world science.
I have known for a long time that Russian spies are operating in Zambia. Yes, and American spies are all over the town too.
They are all trying to capture Matha and my cats. They want our space secrets.
I’m not convinced. Knowing what a rocket his, why in some instances claim he intended to launch using a “catapult device” other than to be funny? Observe the slapstick quality of the training he says he is inflicting on his “Afronauts”. Notice the mischievous look on his face in this picture. Then there are those asides - how the cats were “also specially trained,” how the missionary was instructed to “not force Christianity on the people in Mars if they do not want it” – which clearly were inserted for intentional comedic effect.
The fate of this brilliant Zambian humorist is a mystery. Did he perpetrate other hoaxes? Is he still alive? Anyone with any information, please let us know.