On Feb. 17, the congress in Nicaragua, one of the region’s poorest, most conflict-prone nations, approved a law creating a space agency. Costa Rica, known for relative growth and stability, did the same on Feb. 18, the day that the NASA rover Perseverance landed on Mars to look for signs of ancient life.
The potential benefits of space are tantalizing for many countries with scarce resources. Satellite technology, international partnerships, national pride, and local development all beckon. Inevitably, critics suspect a boondoggle, a vanity project, a diversion from pressing problems on the ground.
“The truth is, the type of eyebrow raised regarding the announcement of a Nicaragua space program is similar to whenever an African country announces a space program. People always question why it makes sense, especially since these countries are battling several socioeconomic problems,” Temidayo Oniosun, managing director of Space in Africa, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
“First of all, most developing countries are primarily interested” in space technologies to address developmental challenges, Oniosun said. Some want a communications satellite ”because it brings an excellent investment return and helps close the digital divide challenges. It is why you rarely see a developing country say they are doing space explorations (Moon, Mars, etc.) and stuff”, he said.
The growth of the commercial space industry and prospects for global internet access from satellite constellations could increasingly help countries that lack coverage. Satellite data can also guide crop-growing, help industry and natural disaster management, and track weather and other conditions linked to disease.
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