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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs