Akram Amin Abdellatif, Egypt's first astronaut candidate who conquered obstacles to pursue his dreams of space travel, told his inspiring story on Sunday at the RiseUp summit for regional entrepreneurs.
Abdellatif didn't qualify for astronaut programs with agencies like NASA because he didn't have the citizenship, but he downloaded the application anyways. He skipped over the citizenship requirement thinking those rules may change later (which they did,) and looked at other requirements that potential space travellers needed to meet.
"I tried to think about if I don't have a chance to apply, what should I do on my own?," Abdellatif said.
For the past four years, the space hopeful has been doing basic training for astronauts, including diving and flying. He began advanced training this year, including High-G training that prepares him for a launch - where blood can shoot down into the pilot's feet and make him pass out - by training on fast aircrafts.
Abdellatif is an engineer and graduate from the German University in Cairo with a degree in Communication Engineering. He started working for the German Aerospace Center in 2010 as an intern and in 2012 was officially hired as a Certification Design Engineer at the institute of Flight Experiments in DLR Oberpfaffenhofen.
He went on to earn two masters degrees and is currently working on his PhD at the Technical University in Munich. He also has a Private Pilot License, which he said he paid for in instalments over two years.
Abdellatif's journey hasn't been easy. Now, Abdellatif is accepted as an Astronaut candidate in PoSSUM program, which is supported by NASA and doesn't require citizenship. The program intends to send trained astronauts to the Mesosphere altitude (at 83 Km) to study noctilucent clouds. The first flights are scheduled to fly in 2017.
Speaking to dozens of entrepreneurs at the RiseUp summit, Abdellatif said young people who dream of going into space should "study very hard and try flying as a hobby." They can swim or dive to prepare, but there isn't one set career that will bring someone up to be an astronaut.
"It's a bit tough," he said with a laugh. "I had to stop all the junk food. You just have to eat healthy. Before you eat, you have to ask yourself, 'is this something an astronaut would eat?'"