NASRDA Signs MoU with SERA to Launch Nigeria’s First Astronaut to Space

Source: NASRDA

Key Highlights

  • NASRDA signed an MoU with the Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA) in Abuja to facilitate Nigeria’s first human space flight.
  • Nigeria’s candidate for space will be chosen through a democratic process managed by SERA.
  • The Human Space Flight programme will incur no cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In a news report released by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the space agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA) in Abuja, to put the first Nigerian Astronaut in space. 

Chief Uche Nnaji, the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology (FMIST), stated that Nigeria is on track to make history in Africa by carrying out its first human space flight. He emphasised that the human space flight, which will be at no cost to the Federal Government of Nigeria, is a key objective of the nation’s space programme, initially scheduled for 2018. Nnaji added that the partnership with SERA will help address past delays and align the programme with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

Furthermore, the Minister congratulated the Director General of NASRDA, Dr Matthew Adepoju and his team, stating that this marks an excellent start to his tenure and validates the President’s wise decision to appoint the DG to lead the Agency at this crucial time. He acknowledged the critical role of Dr Ann Agi from the Learn Space Foundation in facilitating the collaboration and emphasised that the private sector involvement will significantly contribute to achieving the nation’s aspirations and enhancing its international reputation.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs Esuabana Asanye, provided a brief history of the meeting between the former President of the United States, John F Kennedy, and the then Nigerian Head of State, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. The meeting centred on the goal of sending the first American and Nigerian to space before the end of the 1960s. She noted that both leaders were assassinated before this dream could be realised. However, America succeeded in sending its first astronaut into space by 1969, while Nigeria has yet to achieve the same milestone. She expressed her gratitude for the collaboration between NASRDA and SERA, which is helping to make this long-held dream a reality. Mrs Asanye also commended the teams involved and urged them to continue their excellent work as the nation eagerly anticipates having its first Nigerian in space.

Source: NASRDA

In his remarks, Dr Matthew Adepoju, expressed his gratitude to the Minister for his support, stating that the agency takes pride in being Africa’s premier space agency—not just as a mere claim, but as a fact. He highlighted that the collaboration with SERA signifies the beginning of NASRDA’s efforts to achieve its dream of human space flight, a key objective of the National Space Policy and Programme. Dr Adepoju emphasised SERA’s crucial role in providing this collaborative opportunity and praised their mission to democratise space exploration and exploitation for all nations as a noble endeavour. He assured that NASRDA is committed to doing everything necessary to send the first Nigerian into space through this partnership.

Furthermore, Sam Hutchinson, Co-founder of SERA, remarked that the Human Space Flight Programme with NASRDA is part of a broader mission to allow six astronauts from different nations, who have never been to space, to make their debut. He explained that SERA is dedicated to democratising space so that anyone can become an astronaut. According to Hutchinson, the Nigerian populace will select a candidate through an open democratic process managed by SERA. He added that Nigeria was chosen for this initiative because of its strong interest in space exploration and its reputation as a nation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

Source: NASRDA

Joshua Skurla, the Co-founder of SERA, praised the event as a milestone for the African continent and assured that his team is committed to putting the first Nigerian astronaut in space. Speaking at the event, Victor Hespenia, the first SERA astronaut, emphasised that a trip to space could significantly impact young Nigerians by inspiring them to dream big and create space-based inventions valuable for the country’s growth. He stressed the importance of exposing young people to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to ensure Nigeria’s bright future in space. The partnership acknowledges and appreciates Nigeria’s achievements in space science and technology.