Once told he wouldn’t live beyond the age of five, Eddie Ndopu now has a Masters Degree and is heading to space.
MTV is shooting for the stars with Eddie Ndopu, who wants to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space.
The music channel announced this week it will chronicle the young activist’s mission to the final frontier in early 2019. The news was announced ahead of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities on Dec. 3.
Eddie Ndopu describes himself as “black, queer, disabled and brilliant.”
“I embody all of the identities that position me at a disadvantage in society,” the 27-year-old South African told NBC News. “But I am turning that on its head.”
At two years old he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), an incurable condition that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. His family was initially told he would not live beyond the age of five.
Nonetheless, Ndopu felt motivated to defy all odds, thriving both academically and medically his whole life. He attributed his drive partly to his mother, who never gave up on him.
There were definitely more challenges throughout his life. Despite education laws mandating education for the disabled, in South Africa a mainstream education wasn’t guaranteed. In a 2017 United Nations report, 90 percent of disabled children in developing countries today never see the inside of a classroom.
Last year, Ndopu graduated from Oxford in the UK, the first African with a disability to do so.
Now, the disability activist only wants to break even more barriers, including going to outer space.
Ndopu, who has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of disabled people, sees it as the ultimate triumph that would prove to the world that anything is possible.
Although people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world, Ndopu laments how they are also the most “neglected and invisible.”
His journey would not be without danger. Since space travel has so many risks, Ndopu might suffer from health complications.
“There is a very real risk that I may not survive the voyage…but I am willing to take that chance, because this is a mission that is bigger than myself,” he said. “I am not scared of the launch into space; I am scared of what will happen if I don’t see this through.”
Ndopu said he also derived courage from the late Stephen Hawking, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2017, the esteemed theoretical physicist was offered a free ride to space by Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. However, Hawking died before he could achieve this lifelong dream.
“Professor Hawking had already started zero-gravity training, and he was in his 70s!” Ndopu exclaimed.
Ndopu is hoping that after he reaches outer space, he will deliver a message from above Earth to the U.N. General Assembly, sending “a powerful message on behalf of young people everywhere who have ever felt excluded by society.”
MTV cameras will follow him as he enlists an aerospace company to facilitate the mission and chronicle his thoughts and emotions as the launch approaches. The channel will also document his voyage and message to the United Nations.