News / Africa

Nigeria Reaches for the Stars

Nigeria Reaches for the Stars With Space Programi
X
June 24, 2013 3:41 PM
Nigeria’s space program is reputed to be one of Africa’s largest, with three satellites in orbit and an ambitious plan to send the first African astronaut into space by 2015. Critics say space dreams are a waste of money in a country wracked by poverty, insecurity and environmental disasters. Heather Murdock reports for VOA from Abuja that space officials say even if the program is in its beginning stages, it is already helping to address some of these problems.

Nigeria Reaches for the Stars With Space Program

Heather Murdock
Nigeria’s space program is reputed to be one of Africa’s largest, with three satellites in orbit and an ambitious plan to send the first African astronaut into space by 2015.  Critics say space dreams are a waste of money in a country wracked by poverty, insecurity and environmental disasters.  But space officials say even if the program is in its beginning stages, it is already helping to address some of these problems.  

The Nigerian space agency complex is as ambitious and seemingly as impossible as the program itself. On 200 hectares of land, a museum and a planetarium are being built along with a complex for visiting scientists and a new operations building.

But not all of these building projects are funded, and very little construction appears to be going on.

Inside the main building everything is tinted green from the colored glass ceiling and it feels a bit like another planet.  With statues of rockets and satellites decorating the lobby, it is easy to see why officials here are so excited.  

Nigeria’s space agency wants to send an astronaut to space by 2015 but many of the agency plans in the past have been delayed by lack of funding. (VOA/Heather Murdock)Nigeria’s space agency wants to send an astronaut to space by 2015 but many of the agency plans in the past have been delayed by lack of funding. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
x
Nigeria’s space agency wants to send an astronaut to space by 2015 but many of the agency plans in the past have been delayed by lack of funding. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
Nigeria’s space agency wants to send an astronaut to space by 2015 but many of the agency plans in the past have been delayed by lack of funding. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
The agency is in touch with its three satellites in orbit, including NigeriaSat-X launched in 2011.  Center for Satellite Technology Development director Spencer Ojogba Onuh says they are particularly proud of NigeriaSat-X, which was built in Britain.

“The NigeriaSat-X was completely designed and manufactured using Surrey Satellite Technology equipment by Nigerian engineers and scientists,” said Onuh.

Some locals say space travel is a luxury they cannot afford in Nigeria, where most people live in abject poverty and nobody has consistent electricity.

But National Space Research and Development Agency spokesperson, Felix Ale, says satellite imagery is already helping the country in poverty alleviation, security and development.

“The Nigerian satellites have really assisted in a lot of application areas," said Ale.  "It has been used in the area of disaster monitoring and in the area of agriculture.”

He says satellite imagery helped emergency services respond to floods that killed hundreds of people and displaced millions of others last summer.

Ale says another goal of the Nigerian space program is to send a Nigerian astronaut into space by 2015, which is still in the planning phase. But as far-fetched as it sounds, he says space programs are all about big dreams.

“I want to tell the world that the Nigerian space program is a success story.  It is a new song to sing about this country," stated Ale. "It is again a re-affirmation that things can work in this part of the world.  We have the commitment, we have the zeal.”

Officials say if they can send an African astronaut into space it will encourage health research on diseases that have a large impact on the continent, like malaria and sickle cell anemia.

Back in the green lobby, Ale shows off one satellite picture that he says demonstrates the destruction of the Niger Delta, which Amnesty International says has suffered an Exxon Valdez-level oil spill every year for decades.  

In an upstairs conference room officials give a lecture to other civil servants, because despite their enthusiasm the space program is widely unknown to Nigerians.  They say Nigeria began space research in the 1950s, but projects were repeatedly side-lined until 1999 when the national space agency was established.   They say by 2028 they hope to have made-in-Nigeria satellites orbiting the earth.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 28, 2013 4:28 AM
Nigerian dark sky has been already good enough to reach for the stars without its original satellite.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 26, 2013 12:10 PM
What a dream! Ale said it is already alleviating poverty, but did not cite one single way or instance this has been achieved. Space program, like every other thing Nigerian, stands to add to the list of drain pipes through which the countries resources are wasted. A space program in a country that cannot boast of a day without power cut, Ale should be ok with his employment and poverty alleviation of his family which he must have achieved at that level of his employment. If anything, Ale should tell us the truth, for example, what percentage of local input Nigeria sat-x and its two other sister satellites have. How many scientists at the base are Nigerians? Or is it another Made-IN-Nigeria just because it is put together in the country while not even a single Nigerian takes part in tighting a nut on the project.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid