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

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora