Nigeria to land man on the Moon by 2030 ! Did you hear that ? How did it sound ? Laughable ? Yeah that is how it sounds and look. However, the title, “Nigeria to land man on the Moon by 2030” is not a farce, but something real people are planning and are serious about it.
The plan to go to the moon by 2030 is part of a plan to develop a world-class space industry. And in view of this, a Nigerian Space Agency delegation will be sent to China sometime in November to discuss everything that is required including the funding in order that this mission would be possible. Actually, if ever this is achieved, it will be the first in Africa.
With regard to this space program, the Nigerian Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu has this to say, “The space program is very important.Space is a major asset that Nigeria must be involved in for the purpose of protecting national interests.”
Before you start to criticise the possibility of this plan, may I bring you to speed as regards Nigeria’s progress so far with Space technology. Nigeria’s space technology experience has been growing steadily and progressively. The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has launched five satellites since 2003, with three still in orbit delivering vital services. And in case you may not know, Nigeria’s space engineers were the ones that designed and constructed the Nigerian Satellite “NigeriaSat-X” orbiting in space at the moment. NigeriaSat-X was the first designed by Nigerian space engineers. A more advanced model is being developed at the moment. In fact, the Nigerian space engineers are working behind the scene quietly without making any noise that is why people think that this announcement sounds like one made by a drunk.
The space agency has made extensive and creative use of the satellites. It has used it from analyzing climate data to improve farming practices, and then to retrieving hostages from Boko Haram. NASRDA officials argue this proves that space exploration is essential for Nigeria. “We contribute to various sectors that benefit the nation,” says Felix Ale, NASRDA communications chief. “Space applications are key to development.” Capacity has improved through greater investment in infrastructure and skills, says Ale, adding that NASRDA has now trained over 300 staff to PhD or BsC level.
Crucially, the industry also benefits from political will at the highest level. “The president is committed to the program, to ensure that dreams transfer to reality” says Ale. The grand ambition of 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.”
Professor Calestous Juma, a specialist on space programs in developing countries at the Harvard Kennedy School, suggests 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.”
Inspiring a continent, the Nigerian space program has ambitions beyond its borders, and it is hoped that bold statements — such as a manned mission — will inspire stargazers across the continent. “ This would be a landmark achievement for Nigeria and Africa, which will encourage the rest of Africa to get involved,” says Ale.
Nigeria already shares resources from its space assets, such as providing satellite imagery to Mali, and has supported the idea of an African Space Agency. With an ever-increasing number of African states investing in space programs, while traditional powerhouses downsize, the continent could be the hotspot of exploration for years to come. “We wanted a concept that was really cheap,” said Ledgard, “and the drones themselves will contain a tiny amount of super high-tech and a lot of low-tech.” Built to be robust, economical and simple to repair, they will be powered by electric engines and have a fixed wing design, more closely resembling commercial planes rather than quadrocopters. The idea could have a great impact on the local economies of developing African countries, This is a multi-billion dollar industry, without question; said Ledgard.