Nigeria has announced plans to send an astronaut into space by 2030, as part of its drive to develop a world-class space industry. The launch will mark the first ever manned excursion into outer space by an African nation in the history of space exploration.
The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has assured Nigerians of its determination to collaborate with its Chinese affiliates in spearheading the groundbreaking initiative.
“The space programme is very important,” said Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology. “Space is a major asset that Nigeria must be involved in for the purpose of protecting national interests.”
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While applauding Nigeria’s ambition of launching an astronaut into orbit by 2030, Dr. Spenser Onuh, head of the Centre for Satellite Technology Development, said the plan is feasible and realistic for Nigeria:
“To train an astronaut from selection to flight takes about eight years. Responses from the international collaborators are very supportive and encouraging.”
In spite of the daunting challenges, tacit resentments and doubts about Nigeria’s level of preparedness and competence in the development of space technology, the country has been taking giant strides over the years, to a least prove a point to the naysayers that it is achievable.
To demonstrate its resolve, Nigeria invested $400 million install the nation’s first communications satellite, NigComSat-1, which was designed and built by the CGWIC. The satellite was put into orbit in May 2007, and then deorbited in November 2008 following the development of a power fault. It was replaced in December 2011 with NigComSat-1R by the same company.
The Nigerian government has not looked back since that time. NASRDA has launched five satellites since 2003, with three still in orbit delivering vital services such as mapping, security tracking, disaster monitoring and earth monitoring. The most recent one, NigeriaSat-X, was the first to be designed and constructed solely by NASRDA engineers. The team is currently developing more advanced models with a view of launching them in the nearest future.
Recently, Nigeria opened talks with China for the financing and construction of two new communication satellites at a cost of $701 million. The two proposed additional satellites, to be known as NigComSat-2 and NigComSat-3, are to serve as backup to the country’s existing communications satellite, NigComSat-1R.
Mr. Abdulrahman Adelajah, general manager of satellite applications for Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, told journalists in Abuja that the Federal Government has already commenced budgetary provision in that respect.
“NigcomSat-2 is designed to cover Nigeria, Middle East, China and other Asian countries, whilst NigComSat-3 will cover Nigeria, and the South and North America. With the three satellites in orbit, it will be possible for the Nigerian telecommunications industry to dominate the African market within a period of five years after the launch of the satellites,” he further disclosed.