Why space programme is important
Recently, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu said the vision to launch Nigeria into space is still on course and will be actualized in no distant time.
The Minister made the statement while addressing old students and young students of his alma mater, Izzi High school, in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state. The Minister assured that the Ministry will not relent in its efforts to actualize the dream no matter how long it takes. Such an innocuous and patriotic statement meant to encourage and motivate the young students was later twisted and given a wrong interpretation by some section of the Media. It is important to put the facts in its proper context so that Nigerians would understand the import of the issue. The Minister was merely appealing to the youngsters to take Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) seriously so as to become successful professionals in the field of Engineering.
The allusion made by the Minister to space programme is not out of order, considering that Nigeria, through the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) of the Ministry has made considerable progress in space exploration since its establishment in May 1999.
For instance, in 2003, Nigeria launched its first experimental Earth Observation Satellite (NigeriaSat-1) into the low orbit. The success propelled the subsequent launch of its communication satellite, NigComSat1 in 2007. The launch of the satellite is not just for the fun of it as space exploration has subsequently benefited the country in many ways. These benefits range from telecommunication, medical services, banking and finance, internet provision to earth observations.
Furthermore, the growth in mobile communication and internet banking triggered by space exploration has impacted the Nigerian economy like never before. The application of NigeriaSat2 and Nigeria Sat-X satellites has contributed immensely in enhancing the nation’s food security through precision agriculture and crop health monitoring. The application of the two satellites has had a desirable impact on petroleum, solid minerals, forestry, land administration, transport and aviation, environment, security and defense, tourism, census, health and water resources. Many people don’t realize that major science and technological discoveries today came about as a result of space research and exploration. For instance, the mobile telephone that is commonly used by farmers, artisans, students, market women etc. for internet banking, listening to the radio and watching Television, Camera, Mobile watches, Internet data etc. was made possible through research in space. This is just one of the gains of space research. Countries that embark on research use it to further impact their environment, manufacturing, technology, agriculture, etc. Research conducted by NARSDA has positively impacted Medicare, agriculture, artificial intelligence, synthetic fiber, instrumentation, auto navigation, and nano-technology.
To be sure, nanotechnology is an emerging technology that is set to revolutionize the manufacturing technology process by making most products lighter, smaller, stronger, cleaner and precise. The application of this new technology is being applied in various fields such as agriculture, health, medicine, and chemical industries to enhance the quality of life of the citizens.
Aside from furnishing us with knowledge of our planet, space research has gone a long way in enhancing global partnership among nations. Space research has also impacted progress in communications, weather, satellite and biomedical research. Nigeria cannot, therefore, afford to be left behind in this important area of technological development. The honourable Minister is therefore right on point in admonishing the youths on STEM as well as restating Nigeria’s vision on space technology. For developing countries to catch up with the developed ones, it has to take a quantum leap in technology and innovation. When the then Soviet Union against all expectations took the western world by surprise by launching Sputnik 1 to space, her stage of development was not at par with the western world. It will be recalled that as far back as 1976, Nigeria declared its space ambition in Addis Ababa to members of the Economic Commission for Africa and the OAU. The space programme was launched during the Obasanjo administration; it is therefore not a pipe dream by this administration as is being insinuated. One of the problems of this country is inconsistency in policy execution.
The Minister’s statement is therefore in line with the vision enunciated when NASRDA was established; that the quest for exploration can only be realized through research, rigorous education, engineering development, etc. One expects a more robust and elucidating contribution on issues from the media in this fast-paced global village as opposed to banal remarks from social media trolls. The Ministry will continue to embark on relevant research in line with its vision of Nigeria being one of the acknowledged leaders of scientifically and technologically developed nations of the world.
Aminu wrote from Kano.
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