Sara Sabry: Egyptian aims to inspire her nation on Blue Origin space flight

Engineer and fellow passengers will experience weightlessness for a few minutes after launching from a spaceport in Texas

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An enterprising Egyptian is aiming to bring hope to her country as she prepares to journey to the edge of space.

Sara Sabry will be one of six passengers on board the latest Blue Origin space tourism flight.

The New Shepard suborbital flight will take the group to an altitude of 106 kilometres after launching from a spaceport in West Texas. A launch date is yet to be announced.

Ms Sabry is more than ready for the remarkable experience ahead of her.

She is a mechanical and biomedical engineer, and the founder of Deep Space Initiative, a non-profit that works to increase accessibility to space research.

She is also Egypt’s first female analogue astronaut, having completed a two-week simulation of a Moon mission that recreated the extreme conditions astronauts experience in space.

Now, her lifelong dream of seeing Earth from above will be realised.

“Many Egyptians have lost hope in our future and my hope is that by going to space, I can contribute to changing that; to bring hope to people, and to make them proud of where they come from,” she said.

“I believe that sharing my experience with the world will motivate the younger generation of Egyptians to pursue education and help change the perception of women in the Arab world, showing the world what we are truly capable of.”

Latest step in region's growing space plans

In 2020, Egypt announced a 10-year national space programme that involves sending the first Egyptian into space by 2026.

It was reported that the astronaut programme is open to men and women, although no update on the search has been given since.

In recent years, many Arab countries have launched space programmes to diversify their national economy and create talent in the science, technology and engineering fields.

This includes Saudi Arabia, which also has a 10-year plan that involves reaching the Moon and Mars.

Bahrain has set up the National Space Science Agency to develop space technology.

The UAE, however, is leading the way in the Middle East and North Africa region through its space programme, having reached Mars with its Hope probe in 2021, launching the first Arab astronaut to the International Space Station in 2019 and building domestic satellites.

The country will soon send Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on the Arab world's first long-duration space mission on the International Space Station, where he will spend six months carrying out science experiments.

Ms Sabry’s seat on the NS-22 mission is being sponsored by Space for Humanity, a non-profit that is trying to expand access to space.

Relishing opportunity

She is currently pursuing a PhD in aerospace sciences with a focus on space suit design.

“I am incredibly excited that Space for Humanity has offered me this opportunity and I am honoured to be representing Egypt in space for the first time,” she said.

“My ancestors have always dreamt big and achieved the impossible, and I hope to bring that back. This is just the beginning.”

The entire experience on a Blue Origin flight lasts 10 minutes.

After reaching apogee, the flight brings passengers a few minutes of weightlessness as well as stunning views of Earth and the darkness of space.

The capsule then descends to the Texas desert under three parachutes and retro engines, bringing the passengers safely back to Earth.

Other passengers on the flight are Dude Perfect co-founder Coby Cotton, Portuguese entrepreneur Mario Ferreira, British-American mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III and telecommunications executive Steve Young.

Blue Origin, a space tourism company founded by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, has sent 26 people to the edge of space so far.

Mr Bezos went on a joyride himself on the first passenger flight last year. Other notable customers were Star Trek actor William Shatner and TV personality Michael Strahan.

The company has not revealed how much a passenger ticket costs, but its competitor, Virgin Galactic, charges $450,000 per seat, although flights are not yet operational.

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Updated: July 27, 2022, 8:44 PM