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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More