Nigeria is set to explore space in 2015 when the country would send its first set of astronauts to space, Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Okon Bassey, said on Thursday.
Professor Bassey, speaking at the 2012 ministerial platform in Abuja, said the first set of Nigerian astronauts are about to begin training to prepare them for the new frontier, a first for Africa’s most populous nation.
The Nigerian government entered the space age in 2001 when it formally adopted a National Space Policy, intent on launching its own satellite and space research programmes.
In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Seidu Mohammed, Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), defended the need for a space program in a developing country. He argued that Nigeria’s venture into space will come with some real benefits.
“Our own space programme is not an ego trip; it is not meant for lunar missions. It is meant to solve problems at hom; problems of agriculture; problems of water resources development; problems of environment, and so on and so forth,” Dr Mohammed said.
NASRDA, with an annual budget of N7.9 billion, has made some great strides in its first decade. On August 17, 2011, Nigeria successfully launched two satellites from Yasny in southern Russia.
The first, NigeriaSat-2, a replacement for the first Earth Imager NigeriaSat-1 which launched in 2003, is a top-notch small satellite produced by engineers at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guilford, UK and has the ability to resolve details down to about 2.5m across, the BBC reported.
NASRDA boss explained the the satellite would benefit Nigeria and Africa as a whole. He said having higher resolution image on NigeriaSat-2 will “provide the ability to do cadastral mapping (to describe the land and its ownership) in Nigeria. This in our opinion will improve the revenue base of most states by more than 1,000%”.
Dr. Mohammed argued that increased revenue will aid in better governance, which will in turn aid welfare, education and health of Nigerians.
The space programme also impacts Nigeria in other ways, employing many brillian Nigerian minds in the challenging new frontier.
NigeriaSat-X, while not as impressive as NigeriaSat-2, was builty by Nigiern engineeers under the direction of the SSTL.
It opens up a new world to Nigerian engineers who, in the future, will be able to build space crafts themselves.