Nicaragua looks to space with new Extraterrestrial Affairs ministry

The small Central American nation Nicaragua has voted to form a new department called the National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, a mouthful that underscores the country's new focus on space and all the mysteries it holds. The ministry will be controlled by the Nicaraguan military, and it remains unclear exactly what they have planned for it.

The decision to launch the new ministry was passed on Wednesday by 76 legislators, according to Associated Press, with only 15 legislators opposing it. The move has proven surprising, with critics both domestic and international pointing out that Nicaragua has far more pressing matters to address and that it, at this time, lacks the resources and capacity to undertake this type of scientific effort.

Space has become a lofty goal for many nations looking toward the scientific and economic potential it holds. Nicaragua's new Extraterrestrial Ministry doesn't have anything to do with aliens, but instead intends to 'promote the development of space activities' in order to broaden 'the country's capacities in the fields of education, industry, science and technology.'

How the ministry plans to achieve this is unclear, as are any potential projects that may be in the pipeline. The timing of the new department is odd given the struggle Nicaragua has faced amid the pandemic, as well as economic issues that make space exploration appear little more than a pipe dream at this time.

Whether the Extraterrestrial Space Affairs department will proceed with any projects at any point in the near future is unknown, but critics remain skeptical and point out the need to focus on more immediate concerns — such as acquiring and distributing COVID-19 vaccines and addressing allegations of human rights violations.