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Nigeria Signs MoU with U.S. Firm to Launch First Nigerian into Space

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ABUJA, Nigeria – In a significant step towards advancing its space exploration ambitions, Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the U.S. firm Space Exploration and Research Agency, SERA, to initiate a Human Space Flight programme.

The agreement aims to send the first Nigerian to space, marking a milestone in the country’s space endeavours.

The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) represented the Federal Government in the signing ceremony held in Abuja on Wednesday, June 19, 2024,  Matthew Adepoju, Director-General of NASRDA, emphasised the importance of this event in implementing the agency’s mandate on human space flight.

“The Human Space Flight programme is one of the cardinal objectives of our National Space Policy and Programme,” Dr Adepoju stated.

“We established the Department of Physical and Life Sciences about three years ago to drive this mandate. This collaboration is a part of our deep space exploration efforts, which will open numerous opportunities for Nigerians.”

Dr. Adepoju reiterated NASRDA’s commitment to sending a Nigerian to space, highlighting the agency’s dedication to achieving this goal.

Sam Hutchison, Co-founder of SERA, elaborated on the inclusive nature of the programme, which allows any Nigerian over the age of 18 to apply.

“The process of application would be open to anybody in Nigeria who is up to 18 years of age; there are no other qualifications required,” Hutchison explained.

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

Hutchison emphasised that the program aims to democratize space access, giving ordinary Nigerians the opportunity to become the first Nigerian in space.

The selection process will be managed entirely by SERA’s platform, ensuring transparency and broad participation.

“Nigeria was chosen because the country has shown serious intent in future space exploration,” Hutchison noted.

“This program is designed to raise awareness among young Nigerians about the potential of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), highlighting that if they pursue these fields, space travel can be within their reach.”

Uche Nnaji, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, remarked on the importance of human space flight to Nigeria’s national objectives.

“The National Space Policy and Programme (NSPP), approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2001, identified human space flight as one of its three pillars,” Nnaji explained.

“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.”

Despite the delay, the Minister expressed optimism, noting that the signing of the MoU is a testament to the ministry’s rigorous efforts over the past months.

As Nigeria embarks on this ambitious journey, the collaboration with SERA marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s space exploration history, promising to inspire future generations and place Nigeria at the forefront of global space initiatives.

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