Nigerian Space Experts Sound Like Chicken Little

Chicken Little

Sometime last month I posted an article about Nigeria’s space program.  Lo and behold, there’s another Nigerian space story, but this time it’s a story attempting to raise alarm bells about the possibility of losing a satellite.

So I looked at the story a little more closely.  It turns out that this story involves a lot of what-ifs.  And everyone involved seems shocked that space can be a risky business.  There’s always a risk of losing a satellite, no matter how carefully the satellite is put together, no matter how scrupulously a rocket to launch it is built, and no matter how many what-ifs are asked and anticipated.  Space is an environment full of risk and always tries to put humankind back in its place whenever the opportunity arises.  Space is a close relation to Murphy.

But when someone goes “chicken-little” about a satellite program, then adds “oh, and buying more satellites will solve this problem,” well, that makes me very skeptical.  Because this is what the “experts” of Nigeria’s space program are proposing.  Professor Babatunde Rabiu says that “Nigeria stands a risk of losing another satellite if more back ups are not built immediately.”  Well, welcome to the club.  I believe the USAF’s General Shelton is a permanent member, having said similar things again, and again.

I am fairly certain the experts in Nigeria didn’t conceive their national space program without looking at other national satellite programs.  They must have known about these risks before they launched even their first satellite.  Honestly, this wouldn’t even be a big deal–except the experts want to spend “other people’s money.”  And in the US, we are very familiar with how well our government spends other people’s money.

Nigeria is a small country.  It’s just beginning to use its own resources to make a mark on the world.  But maybe there should be a re-thinking within emerging space nations of just how they will be able to afford expensive space programs.  How can Nigeria pay for national space programs?  It has a tremendous poverty problem, although the Nigerian space program experts argue the space program will help people out of poverty.  Well, maybe, but I live in a well-developed nation, and I’m slowly sliding towards poverty.  So let’s just say I’m not buying that argument.  But maybe there’s a different way.

Maybe national programs in emerging countries need to be pushed towards privately owned and operated space.  This way, money could instead be used for education and health (since the Nigerian government will spend it on something), which would be more useful.  And they’d still be in the space game.  Not only that, they could still educate engineers and scientists to work for these private companies.

But, like India, Nigeria is infatuated with the idea of having a national space agency.  But while I truly like the idea of Nigeria operating satellites in space, I am not sure they have the money for a full-blown space agency.  Private space might not be the most desirable option for them–but it might be the most cost-effective one.

One more thing:  these new satellites will not help the Nigerian government with their Boko Haram problem.  Just sayin’…

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