Meet the Egyptian Astronaut Candidate Enrolled in a NASA-Supported Program

Meet the Egyptian Astronaut Candidate Enrolled in a NASA-Supported Program

Photo courtesy of Ahmed Farid
Photo credit: Trea Cotton

Ahmed Farid is one of three Egyptians enrolled in the NASA-supported project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere), which is a research and educational program aimed at studying the earth’s upper atmosphere and its impact on climate change.

Being one of 12 candidates selected to become astronaut scientists, Farid tells Egyptian Streets that he hopes to be one of the people who will have the chance to participate in the project’s first atmospheric flight, expected to take place in 2018 with the aim of taking samples from the outermost layers of the earth’s atmosphere.

However, Farid said that the flight’s date has yet to be confirmed, as there remains a number of tests to ensure the safety of all those on board.

Speaking about the other two Egyptians enrolled in the program, he says he feels privileged to work with them.

“I was very surprised and very happy to find two other Egyptians in the same group in PoSSUM. They are awesome people. We felt very honored to be there and I was very happy and proud to have these people around me,” Farid said.

Photo courtesy of Ahmed Farid
Photo credit: Trea Cotton

Born and bred in Cairo, Farid did not originally plan to work in the field of space research. After studying management technology at the Modern Academy and doing two and a half years of post-graduate studies at the American University, he was accepted for a scholarship at IBM’s Egyptian branch.

“Six and a half years ago, I got this email saying they had seen my CV online and asked if I wanted to work with space operations. At first I thought it was a spam email and ignored it for a day or so. Then I started writing a reply asking them not to write me again but before I pressed send it struck me that this might actually be a real email. So I wrote back saying I was interested in the job.”

It turned out it was the German Space Operations Center in Munich that was interested in hiring Farid as part of a team working on human spaceflights with the International Space Station (ISS).

Currently employed as a spacecraft controller, he is part of a team responsible for communications between the astronauts and the ground crew of scientists and engineers supervising all the European activities on the ISS.

Photo courtesy of Ahmed Farid
Photo credit: Trea Cotton

With his personal motto, “no matter where you come from, your dream is valid,” Farid is keen to underscore his commitment to harnessing the energy and ideas of today’s youth in order for developing countries such as Egypt to rise from poverty and underdevelopment.

One of the main problems Egypt is facing at the moment, Farid continues, is that of corruption and the fact that people are appointed to jobs not because of their qualifications but due to their seniority or their personal contacts.

He says that, in order for his home country to develop as a nation, the corruptness of the system needs to be adressed and people at senior positions must realize that the youth can help turn Egypt into a modern country, if they just get the opportunity and the right motivation.

Farid says that his message to Egypt’s youth is to always pursue their dreams and, with the combination of preparation, in the form of acquiring knowledge, and luck, anyone can get a long way in life.

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Samir Shalabi is an MA student in Middle East Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden. With a BA in the same subject he primarily writes on Egyptian and Syrian politics and history. Follow Samir on Twitter @SamirShalabi_

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