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When Others Discover What We Have Forgotten

By Keith Cowing
October 30, 2009
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Coming soon: Nigerians in space?, Global Post
“Nigeria really does have a space agency. The west African nation’s National Space Research and Development Agency is already celebrating its 10th anniversary. And as America and Europe’s space agencies set their sights on joint exploration of Mars, Nigeria has big plans of its own: It wants to send a Nigerian up into space in 2015, making Nigeria home to the first black African astronaut.”
Keith’s note: Ignore the first part of the article about the stranded Nigerian in space email scam. (Pause) While some may justifiably argue that this is really a case where money needs to be spent attending to Earthly needs, why is it that poor countries like Nigeria and more prosperous, but still poverty-straddled nations like India, Malaysia, and China (to some extent) all seem to think that putting one of their citizens into space is such a big deal? After all, it was first done nearly half a century ago. It certainly can’t be all the high tech spinoffs that Nigerians enjoy since 99.99% of them have never even seen “smoke detectors, implantable pacemakers …” etc. etc. and the other spinoffs that NASA loves to incessantly wave at the general public as a rationale for NASA spending.
What is it about space that excites these countries, but leaves us mostly bored – except every few years in a few states when job cuts suddenly appear and we hoist up our grand space accomplishments as an excuse reason to not put people out on the street?
What have these countries discovered about space exploration and its potential that we have long ago forgotten? What would it take for such a (re)discovery to happen in America?

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.