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Nigerian Space Exploration Milestone: SERA, NASRDA To Send First Nigerian Into Space

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NASRDA
L-R: Astronaut, Mr. Victor Hespanha; Permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology (FMIST), Mrs. Esuabana Nko Asanye; FMIST Minister, Chief Uche Nnaji; Director-general, National Space Research and Development Agency, Dr. Matthew Adepoju; and Co-founder, Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), Mr. Joshua Skurla at the signing of memorandum of understanding between the ministry and SERA today in Abuja.

The Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA) and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) announced a groundbreaking partnership to send the first Nigerian citizen into space. 

This collaboration marks a significant milestone in Nigeria’s space exploration journey and opens new opportunities for scientific research and technological advancement.

Under this partnership, SERA, a global space agency dedicated to increasing access to space for all nations, will reserve a seat on an upcoming Blue Origin New Shepard suborbital spaceflight for a Nigerian citizen. 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.

“Until now, space has been an exclusive domain, with over 80 per cent of all astronauts to date coming from just three countries. Nigeria has a rich history of scientific and technological innovation, and we are honoured to partner with NASRDA to extend this legacy into space and create new opportunities for Nigerian space explorers,” said co-Founder of SERA, Joshua Skurla.

NASRDA was established in 1999 to break new frontiers through space exploration and exploitation. Its main objective is to pursue the development and application of space-focused science and technology for the socio-economic benefit of the nation. Since the launch of the nation’s first satellite—Nigeria Sat-1 in 2003, Nigeria has launched five other satellites and made progressive steps towards technological development in space exploration.

Signing the MoU on behalf of the government, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Chief Uche Nnaji stated, “We are delighted to see this partnership come to fruition. Human space flight 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 Ahmed Tinubu. This partnership provides a way of achieving our long-time aspiration as a nation.”

Similarly, director-general/chief executive of NASRDA, Dr. Matthew Adepoju spoke glowingly of the partnership: “This partnership is a testament to Nigeria’s growing prominence in the global space community. It is a step towards the realisation of our objective of putting man in space as stated in our National Space Policy and Programme and we are excited to work with SERA and Blue Origin to provide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Nigerian to journey to space and contribute to our nation’s scientific and technological progress.”

A Nigerian NGO, Learnspace Foundation, played a pivotal role in bringing this partnership to fruition. Learnspace Foundation’s president, Dr. Anne Agi successfully advocated for Nigeria to be chosen as the African country for this historic mission. At the signing, Agi emphasised, “Space has the power to inspire future generations and Learnspace believes this mission serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for Nigerian youths, showing 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.”

This privately funded initiative demonstrates SERA’s commitment to making space accessible to all and fostering international collaboration in space exploration. The SERA-NASRDA collaboration builds upon SERA’s previous success in sending Victor Hespanha, a Brazilian civil engineer, to space in 2022, demonstrating the transformative power of an inclusive and accessible space ecosystem.

Senior vice-president of Blue Origin’s New Shepard programme, Phil Joyce echoed the sentiment: “This programme exemplifies our commitment to making space accessible to everyone. We are proud to support SERA and NASRDA in their efforts to send the first Nigerian to space and inspire the next generation of space explorers.”

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