Farah Alibay, of Malagasy origin, at the controls of the Perseverance robot on Mars

She is part of the NASA team piloting the Perseverance robot, which arrived on the surface of Mars on Thursday, February 18. Farah Alibay is an aerospace engineer and the pride of Madagascar.

For more than six years, the young Farah Alibay has worked for NASA from the Californian coast as part of the space exploration mission of the red planet (March 2020). An aerospace systems engineer, Farah Alibay is part of the team that remotely pilots the Perseverance robot on Mars. NASA is looking for signs of ancient life on Mars.

The young woman whose remarkable career is hailed in Canada is also the pride of the Malagasy community. Her mother left Madagascar at the age of 15 to live in North America.

Today, Farah Alibay therefore also represents this successful Madagascan diaspora. "My mother is very proud of the fact that I work for NASA because she made a lot of sacrifices," she confided on the Modern Hero Youtube channel in June 2017.

She grew up in Quebec until the age of 14 before following her family to England and after obtaining her bachelor's and then a master's degree in engineering and space technology in 2010 at the University of Cambridge, she moved to the prestigious Massachusetts. Institute of Technology (MIT) where she obtained her PhD in Space Systems Engineering in 2014.

Asked recently by Radio Canada journalists, she said the last six months of working with her NASA colleagues have been particularly intense. And since last Thursday, she is now working on Martian time. "As the day is a little longer on Mars, every day my working day changes by 40 minutes".

In 2018, Farah Alibay previously worked on the InSight mission, a spacecraft designed to study the crust, mantle and core of Mars. To celebrate the plane's landing, she had her hair dyed red, colors she still wears today.

It was the Apollo 13 movie that she discovered at the age of 9 that made her want to pursue a career in the aerospace industry. The young woman is also involved in the sponsorship program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. She says she had to fight for herself in the world of aerospace engineering, as a woman but also because of her origins.

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