Speaking With Sara Sabry – The Astronaut Representing Egypt in Space

It’s a time when the need for representation is at an all-time high – not just in the media, but in various fields. We saw the influence of May Calamawy as the first Egyptian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Moon Knight, directed by Egyptian filmmaker Mohammed Diab. We are currently witnessing a renaissance of the Arab presence in the western world. And we at CairoScene can tell you firsthand that it’s bigger than seeing Arabs in shows and films, significant as that is – it’s seeing Arabs, in this case Egyptians in particular, in spaces that change the direction of the change the future of the world. Or even that of the galaxy.

That is exactly what Egyptian astronaut Sara Sabry is. After studying mechanical and biomedical engineering in Italy, followed by a course in aerospace engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sara Sabry is the first Egyptian analog astronaut – with a wide range of experience. Think mechatronics and robotic surgery to stem cell development and bioastronautics. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she is also the CEO and Founder of the Deep Space Initiative (DSI), a non-profit company dedicated to increasing accessibility and opportunity for space exploration.

In this sense, she is also a consultant for the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA) and is co-founder of the EgSA Space Ambassadorship Program – as the first Egyptian Space Ambassador candidate. In this way, Sabry EgSA is helping to design and build the first analogue research station in Africa.

During her undergraduate studies in Egypt, Sara was a yoga teacher, CrossFit trainer and spent some time practicing mixed martial arts.

How does a woman reconcile all of this? CairoScene had the opportunity to sit down with Sara Sabry and hear how she balances her academic passions with her mental health and personal life.

A typical day for Sara is getting up at 5am, working out, and then starting work around 8am. She plans her day, answers emails, gets her work done, and takes calls and meetings in the evenings.

“It takes a lot of discipline,” Sara shared on a Zoom call. “Sometimes something happens that breaks the routine.” That being said, the young scientific genius always seems to bounce back. She shared that yoga plays a big part in this. Starting out as a fun elective, it quickly became her surefire way of finding peace in her day—so much so that she earned a certificate to teach it.

But uplifting herself and others around her is something Sara has always carried with her. She was fascinated by space and saw a gap that needed to be filled in the industry. NASA not only needed more women – it needed more Arab women. It was then that she decided to take matters into her own hands and found the Deep Space Initiative and support the construction of the first analogue research station in Africa.

Analog astronauts are those who receive real astronaut training under simulated conditions, as a kind of “test” or “prototype” of a real mission. The purpose is to iron out every detail and potential disaster before a real mission into space that costs billions of dollars to launch. “Analog astronauts are critical in space travel. We will be subjected to the exact same conditions – zero gravity, getting dressed and being locked in a closed room for an extended period of time. We all experience the same psychological effects that real astronauts will endure.”

By helping the Egyptian government build the first analog research station in Africa, Sara catalyzed an entire movement to bring Egypt closer to participating in the space race. It provides Egyptian aeronauts with a platform to expand their knowledge and gives them the opportunity to bring their own unique perspectives and research to the table.

Sara explained what that means to her. “I want to help make it a viable and valid career option for Egyptians, especially young women. Most of the time we go in the direction of a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer… for a long time my parents still didn’t really understand what I was doing. The idea of ​​space work is not generally understood or seen as so important.” It triggers the perspective that many might feel that there are enough problems on this planet to solve before they take care of another. Sara wholeheartedly disagrees.

“We need space exploration to solve Earth problems,” she declared fervently. “So many of the simplistic solutions we see on Earth today were designed to make space travel more efficient.” For example, satellite technology, developed in part to track life on Earth and beyond, has become a… prediction used the weather, whereby meteorological forecasts can serve as early warning systems for extreme weather events. Frozen food was also developed through space exploration. Through a collaboration with food giant Nestle, NASA has developed a food freeze-drying technique to make the transportation and preservation of food in space more efficient. On Earth, freeze-dried food has proven to be a quick and inexpensive way to alleviate low-income food demand.

Apart from that, Sara would like to do more to help the development of the world through space technology and create a space for the Egyptians in this world.

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