Nicaragua is looking to the skies. The Central American country has created the wonderfully named National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
A bill to establish the agency passed through the National Assembly with little trouble this week. It received approval from 76 members of the chamber with 15 abstaining. President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Party holds 71 of the 92 seats in the congress.
Although the Nicaraguan army doesn't have a space program, it will oversee the ministry. The Associated Press reports that the agency will "promote the development of space activities, with the aim of broadening the country’s capacities in the fields of education, industry, science and technology.”
However, critics say that Nicaragua doesn't have the technical chops nor the financial resources to take on such an endeavor. "We are not scientifically able as a country to undertake this type of research,” Jaime Incer Barquero, president of the nation's Academy of Geography and History, told CNN.
The country is establishing the ministry at a time when it's facing deep social and economic problems, which intensified in the wake of anti-government protests in 2018. The AP reports that the government is struggling to supply residents with food and fuel and it has yet to secure any COVID-19 vaccines. Ortega has greenlit other major initiatives that haven't made much progress, such as a $50 billion cross-country canal project in 2014.
Although it's not really the best time for Nicaragua to set up a space agency, perhaps it too will make it to Mars someday.
Meanwhile, the US is continuing to establish its Space Force. Former president Donald Trump, who initially floated the idea as a joke, created the sixth branch of the military while he was in office. Joe Biden, the current president, is retaining the agency, though the aims of Space Force may change.