Ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of going into outer space. Being Egyptian, that dream seemed like a distant one since you pretty much had to hail from a country that ran a space program like NASA or ESA. Despite of that, this distant dream remained with me ever since. In 2005, on my first week doing an MBA at London Business School, Sir Richard Branson came to the university and spoke to us about his new project Virgin Galactic. I remember my heart beating faster as I realised that perhaps this dream is achievable in my life time for mere mortals like myself, but I was suitably deflated when I realised the ticket cost $250,000. I decided to hold onto the vision all the same.
In 2013, a global competition was announced which would give regular people the opportunity to go into space with a competing company, XCOR. The private exploration of space was now truly underway. I signed up and threw myself into the competition despite realising that more than 2 million people had applied. The process lasted for over 9 months and in the end 110 finalists were invited to Cape Canaveral in Orlando for a chance to win one of 23 tickets to space.
Over the course of 4 days we were put through numerous challenges including a G-force centrifuge, zero-gravity flights, physics exams, building a model rocket and assault course fitness challenges. In December of 2013 I was selected as the only Astronaut from the Middle East region and Buzz Aldrin himself handed me the ticket. This has to be one of the most outstanding moments of my life.
We’re now busy preparing for the launch which should take place sometime early 2016. With any luck, we should be going 103km above sea level at 2.9 mach speed to finally reach zero gravity and looks down on our planet from above on one side and stare into the vastness of space on the other. I really can’t wait!