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Nigeria hopes to send Africa’s first astronaut to space by 2030



Nigeria hopes to send Africa’s first astronaut to space by 2030
Nigeria is planning to invest in a space program with the aim of sending Africa’s first astronaut to space by the year 2030.
The ambitious project is part of the country’s drive to develop a world-class space industry.
“The space program is very important,” said Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, during a speech in the capital city Abuja. “Space is a major asset that Nigeria must be involved in for the purpose of protecting national interests.”
A Nigerian Space Agency delegation will visit partners in China this month to discuss logistics and investment for a manned space mission, which would be the first by an African nation.
Dr. Onu’s announcement has been greeted with skepticism, partly as it came soon after a scam email demanding $3 million for a lost Nigerian astronaut went viral, and as policy announcements from the new government have been scoring poorly on the Buharimeter, a Nigerian civil society website assessing policy commitments. Onu also recently announced plans to start a pencil manufacturing industry that would create 400,000 jobs.
The launching an astronaut into orbit represents a greater challenge than Nigeria’s previous missions, but leading figures from the space industry are optimistic.
“To train an astronaut from selection to flight takes about eight years,” says Dr. Spenser Onuh, head of the Centre for Satellite Technology Development. “2030 is realistic in my opinion…Responses from the international collaborators are very supportive and encouraging.” He added.
Professor Calestous Juma, a specialist on space programs in developing countries at the Harvard Kennedy School, is however not too optimistic as he suggests that the mission represents “lofty ambition” that “may or may not happen as planned.”
But he believes that the vision is more important than the outcome.
“Scientific, technological and engineering capabilities would have direct economic benefits to Nigeria long before the decision of putting a person in space is made,” says Juma. “Space walks are probably the least important. It is the scientific and technological infrastructure and its linkages to the rest of the economy that matters.”

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