Our personalities of the year 2021: Farah Alibay, aerospace engineer

Its year 2021, Farah Alibay lived it, so to speak, on another planet. Having been at the heart of the mission on Mars that successfully landed the robot Perseverance last February 18, she struggles to take the measure of all that has happened to her extraordinary in recent months. “It has been the best year of my career so far,” she enthuses over the phone.

Having dreamed of working in a team that would “change history”, the young aerospace engineer recounts with great emotion this extraordinary year on all fronts. “For me, professionally, participating in such a mission is something I have dreamed of almost always, especially since university. That’s THE reason I ended up there, ”she says, admitting that the path to get there hasn’t always been easy. “I can now say ‘mission accomplished’. “

Despite this successful landing, she still felt a big shock in her personal life. Solicited from all sides, the 32-year-old young woman was suddenly inundated with interview requests, including in her native Quebec, from which emanated a great wave of pride that swept to Los Angeles. “In February, I spoke to the media almost every day. It was intense. I was not expecting that ”, is still surprised Farah Alibay, who grew up in Joliette. “I worked March time, so I could go home at 4 am, but sometimes I did an interview before going to bed. For me, it’s just important to make people know what I was doing, in French too. “

Her popularity is such that the young engineer had to take an agent. “People told me I had to get help. But why ? It’s for showbiz, agents! »Laughs the one who is no less a star in her field.

A dream year

Farah Alibay is still always pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and fascination aroused by this mission and her work within the piloting team. Perseverance on Mars. “It’s really a special year because I felt that people had the time to take an interest and try to understand what we do at NASA”, says the one who is also an excellent popularizer. “It made me so happy to be able to share my passion and show young people that they can also live their dream. “

With her long black hair with red highlights, her relaxed look and her disarming smile, Farah Alibay stands out from the image of the classic scientist, which indeed seems to delight young people. Last spring, she had crossed a student of 2e year in aerospace engineering who had confided in him having been inspired by one of his lectures. ” I started to cry. I remembered going to his school. It had taken me an hour and a half, it was raining, I was late. But I saw that it had been worth it! »Says the engineer, whose two parents, of Indian origin, were born in Madagascar. “Me, I missed having models when I was young. A woman of genius of color and who had a story similar to mine, I did not know. “

2021 will also have been a great year for science. Helicopter Ingenuity will have carried out about fifteen flights on Mars, and its mission has even been extended. As for Perseverance, he will have traveled about three kilometers, on what is now confirmed to be an ancient lake, where five samples have already been taken. “It doesn’t sound like much, but for us, it’s huge to have come this far,” argues Farah Alibay, saying that he is very proud to be part of this team, which has become a family. “It gives hope to see how, as humanity, we can work together. “

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