Thursday, 29 September 2011

New Players In Space

China seems to be completing the takeover from U.S.A as the world leading country. There are many factors that made me think so, but the most interesting to me is space technology.
China successfully put man in space for the first time in 2003.  After that they had several manned space expeditions and also had their first spacewalk. Today China successfully launched it's first space laboratory Tiangong-1 into orbit. They plan to launch Senzhou-8 soon and will couple with Tiangong-1 to mark the first steps into building their space station which they hope to complete by 2015.

In contrast the U.S.A is retiring it's space shuttle program for good. In the future, U.S.A will have to rely on Russia to convey it's astronauts to space. They are however hoping that American private companies will rise up and fill that gap left in conveying astronauts to space. This will cost the American government about $50 million dollars per astronaut.

Other countries that may be playing greater roles space technology in the near future may include Turkey and Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria. Nigeria has recently lauched it's second and third earth observation satellites namely NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X. NigeriaSat-X signifies major progress for Nigerian space ambitions because it is built entirely by Nigerian engineers.

Many Nigerians argue that Nigeria should suspend it's space program
because it has no impact on the ordinary man's life. I think that is not true, the average Nigerian simply doesn't know the impact of our satellite on his life.  NigeriaSat-1 has immensely helped in getting early warning signs of floods but I must admit the relevant government agencies failed to act on the information.

Others argue that we shouldn't worry about space technology when we have things like good health care delivery and stable electricity to worry about. But just because the ministries of health and power are not meeting the expectations of Nigerians doesn't mean that the science and technology ministry should stay back and wait for them. It's like telling a person not to buy a TV or electric iron until we have stable power supply. Developing the various sectors of our national life should be carried out in parallel. Moreover Nigeria spent less on it's space program than it has spent in hosting football tournaments.

I am of the view that Nigeria can leapfrog into the space technology field like China did. All that is needed is a lot of discipline and optimism. A Chinese scientist recently said that three decades ago, the thought of China going into space will sound like science fiction. I hope a few years from now, a Nigerian scientist can look back and say the same.

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