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Nigeria set to be launched into space – Science and Technology Minister, Nnaji

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji has revealed that preparations have reached advance stage to launch Nigeria into space.

Nnaji made this known on the occasion of the MOU signing between the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), Delaware, USA, on human space flight.

This was contained in a statement made available to journalists by his media office on Thursday.

He said: “Human space flight has been a key objective for our nation. The National Space Policy and Program (NSPP), approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2001, identifies human space flight as one of its three pillars.

“According to the 25-year roadmap approved in 2005 for the implementation of the NSPP, our first human space flight was scheduled for 2018. This means we are about six years behind schedule.

“In an effort to correct past delays and align with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we have revitalized the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology and all its parastatals since I assumed office.

“The signing of this MOU is a testament to our rigorous efforts over the past months. As part of this groundbreaking mission, SERA has reserved six seats for an upcoming New Shepard launch.

“This initiative will see six individuals (from six countries, including Nigeria), potentially becoming the first astronauts from their respective countries.”

The Minister added that “Nigeria’s selection for this historic opportunity aligns with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, and highlights the country’s growing significance in the global space community.

“The inclusion of a Nigerian astronaut will mark a proud moment for the nation, showcasing its advancements and ambitions in space exploration.”

Earlier in his address, the Director General of NASRDA, Dr Matthew Adepoju, said: “We pride ourselves as the Premier Space Agency in Africa at NASRDA.

“This is not just a mere statement, but a position of truth.

“When the Space Agency was established on the 8th of May, 1999, not many nations in Africa could dream of having a Space Program.

“We are also today the only Space Agency in Africa whose activities cover the whole chain of the Space ecosystem. We have a strong footprint in Outer Space exploration and exploitation, and also leading in remote sensing.

“Our activities in launch vehicle development can also not be matched by any country in Africa. We are indeed a Premier Space Agency.

“The Agency has successfully launched six satellite missions since inception. All of these missions were done with our collaborators outside the country, but the contribution of our Engineers cannot be overemphasized.

“Our major pride in our missions is the Nigeriasat-x, which was wholly built by our Engineers.

“Today’s event marks the commencement of our effort to achieve our dream of Human Space Flight. The Human Space Flight program is one of the cardinal objectives of the National Space Policy and Program.

“It was with this in mind that we established the Department of Physical and Life Sciences about three years ago. It gladdens my heart that I was very instrumental to the establishment of this department, and by providence, I am today the Director General to see to it that this dream is becoming a reality.”

In their speech, SERA co-founders, Joshua Skurla and Sam Hutchison said: “This is a milestone moment in the development of our university.

“And we have built a human spaceflight program in partnership with Newport to promote access to space, and we are building this by way of a program in other countries that had previously no access to space.

“We are here at the dialogue between the Learn Space Foundation and carried on with the personnel from NASA to announce that we intend to send the first human spaceflight program on the Blue Origin spacecraft.

“This human spaceflight opportunity with NASA and with Nigeria is part of a broader mission that will be taking place in the not-too-distant future that will see six astronauts. SERA is a private organization. This is an example of a public-private partnership that I think is exactly the right platform.

“Our hope for this mission is that we can raise awareness among young people, in Nigeria in particular, to understand that if they get into science, engineering, and mathematics, their future may be in space.

“There are hundreds of billions of dollars being invested in the commercial development of in-space activity, and Nigerians should be a part of it. So our hope for this mission is that we can promote broader public support for space activity in Nigeria.

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