June 19, 2024

Nigeria, U.S. coy to launch first human spaceflight in Africa

human spaceflight in Africa

(L-R): SERA Co-Founder, Joshua Skurla, Astronaut Victor Espanha; Honourable Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Chief Uche Nnaji and SERA Co-Founder, Sam Hutchison at the signing of an MoU to send the first Nigerian into space on Wednesday in Abuja.

Nigeria and the Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA) from Delaware, USA, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to send the first Nigerian to space.

Chief Uche Nnaji, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, said on Wednesday at the signing of the MoU in Abuja, that human spaceflight was a major aspiration of Nigeria.

“Human spaceflight is not just a random aspiration of our country but a major objective of the Nigeria Space Policy and Programme which was approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2001.

“Reviving and implementing all abandoned national plans is a cardinal point of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the administration of President Bola Tinubu.

“This partnership provides a way of achieving our long-time aspiration as a nation,’’ he said.

The minister said the slot could be available from now till December, or in 2025, as SERA would still be test-running the platform.

Dr Matthew Adepoju, Director- General of NASRDA, said the cost of sending a Nigerian to space had been fully sponsored by SERA.

Adepoju said the event marked the commencement of the agency’s efforts to implement part of its roadmap of having a human spaceflight.

He also said the event was worth celebrating at a time that Nigeria was marking the 25 years of its space programme.

“The Human Spaceflight programme is one of the cardinal objectives of National Space Policy and Programme.

“It was with this in mind that we established the Department of Physical and Life Sciences about three years ago to forge this mandate.

“This is also coming as one of our deep space explorations because there are many spinoffs that will come from the collaboration and opportunities opened for Nigerians,’’ he said.

Mr Joshua Skurla, Co-Founder of SERA, said that 80 per cent of astronauts, globally, had exclusively emanated from three countries.

Skurla said that Nigeria had a rich history of scientific, technological innovation, thus, SERA was excited to partner with NASRDA to extend the legacy into space and create new opportunities for Nigerian space explorers.

Mr Sam Hutchison, Founder of SERA, said that the application to be in space was open to any Nigerian older than 18 years, in spite of their discipline.

“The Nigerian people will choose the citizen to go to space, the process of application will be open to anybody who is over 18 years, and there are no other qualifications required.

“You will be able to sign up and then encourage others to vote for you; as part of democratic process, the Nigerian people will select four potential astronaut candidates before a final selection process.

“The important thing to understand is that anybody can apply, you don’t have to be a Scientist, Mathematician or Engineer.

“This is about opening up access to ordinary Nigerians and giving them the opportunity of being the first Nigerian in space,’’ he said.

He added that they chose Nigeria because the country had already indicated serious intent towards space exploration through its obvious space programmes and initiatives.

Hutchison further said that they paid attention to the country knowing that it is a country of Scientists, Engineers and most importantly entrepreneurs.

“We hope to raise the awareness of young Nigerians that by choosing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, they can go to space.”

Hutchison noted that the selection process would be through SERA’s platform, and that it would be open and transparent.

Dr Anne Agi, President, Learnspace Foundation, who was instrumental to executing the partnership, advocated for Nigeria to be chosen for the mission.

Agi who expressed optimism that the mission would serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for Nigerian youths noted that space had the power to inspire future generations.

“It will show that even in challenging times, with global collaboration, great achievements are possible.

“We are therefore thrilled to have played a part in this groundbreaking partnership and we encourage Nigerians to key in.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that under the partnership, SERA will reserve a seat for a Nigerian citizen, on an upcoming Blue Origin New Shepard suborbital spaceflight.

This is part of a broader SERA-led initiative, in partnership with Blue Origin, to send six individuals from nations historically underrepresented in space exploration.

SERA, is a company from Delaware, U.S., and was founded to build a global community dedicated to space exploration, research and democratising space exploration and exploitation for all nations of the world.

The SERA-NASRDA collaboration builds upon SERA’s previous success in sending Victor Hespanha, a 28-year-old Brazilian Civil Engineer, to space in 2022, which demonstrates the transformative power of an inclusive and accessible space ecosystem.