Exclusive: The Dreamer, the Astronaut and the Nation within – Part I

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Written by Alaa (aka Lols)

Just your ordinary guy next door with a not so ordinary future laid out for him.
Just your ordinary guy next door with a not so ordinary future laid out for him.

Hello Cairenes and welcome to another very special Exclusive! A few months back, we interviewed a young man who happened to be one of my dearest and best friends, on his journey to conquer space. Ahmed Khaled Said – or ‘Bondok’ as his entourage would call him (I’m now a part of an entourage *face tenek*) – has dreamt of flying ever since he was a young boy but due to his eyesight, he couldn’t pursue that dream. A few months ago, he was finally presented with the chance to do so. The Axe Apollo Academy announced that 22 lucky people from around the globe, would get the chance to fly to space within an X-COR Lynx Sub-Orbital Space Vehicle (what!?). On Tuesday, September 10th 2013, “Bondok” was declared the winner of the 1st stage of the competition held in Dubai and became Egypt’s representing contestant in the 2nd stage of the competition held in Florida, USA from the 1st till the 5th of December 2013. Along with two other Egyptians, Omar Samra and Ahmed Hagagovitch, the dream of sending one of her own to space couldn’t be closer to our nation.

And here's the X-COR Lynx Sub-Orbital Space Vehicle photobombing Bondok.
And here’s the X-COR Lynx Sub-Orbital Space Vehicle photobombing Bondok.

Despite not being the one who got to represent Egypt in space, Ahmed Khaled Said succeeded in accomplishing more than anyone his age ever could.

Welcome back Bondok with Cairo Contra. It’s very good to be speaking with you again. I hear you just got back from Florida.

Thanks bro. I’ve been waiting for this interview even before my travel.

That’s good to hear. Likewise, I’ve had so much fun last time I interviewed you so I was waiting for it myself. So tell me, how does it feel to come back home having accomplished so much for such a young person?

Well, I don’t know where to start bsara7a. It was a massive trip.

I heard you were a contestant among 122 others. Am I right?

Over 1,000,000 applied to have this chance and I was lucky enough to be out of the chosen 109 who eventually went to Space Camp. Originally, we were supposed to be 122 but because some weren’t able to attend, we ended up being 109.

Can you find Bondok among them?
Can you find Bondok among them?

That’s a lot of competition in one place! So tell me how did you prepare for this trip? Were your preparations any different from the ones you did before you went to Dubai?

In Dubai, I was way on my own. I started going to the gym and concentrating on fitness more than body shape. As for preparing for the camp in the US, the stakes were harder so I had to up my game a lot. I started sprinting and swimming to increase my fitness. I pushed myself to the limits until I couldn’t go any further. There was no time to joke. I even asked the army for support and i was honored to hear back from them

And did your training and exercises pay-off?

Well after exercising and going to some training in the Air and Space Medical Center in Egypt, I found that i wasn’t that bad. I reached till 8 G’s out of 9 in the G-force despite the fact that I G-LOCed i.e. fainted. I’ve been in a hard flight simulation. I went to 25,000 ft. above the ground in the pressure chamber. I found that nothing was truly impossible and that I can do this, I can withstand the hard.

That sounds like really hard stuff. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the pressure chamber, G-Force and the flight simulation?

The pressure room is a room that you enter and find fog and mist coming out from every corner of it and it’s so cold. That chamber takes you up to 25,000 ft. in order to test how you’ll deal with the lack of oxygen.

And what about the G-Force?

For the G-Force, it’s a center fusion and for me, it was personal i don’t know why! What happens is that you start to spin so fast, it gives you the feeling of a plane taking off rapidly. And with this effect, you start to feel as if someone else the same size and mass as you, sit on top of you. So when I say 1G for example, that means that I feel as if someone else exactly like me in mass and size is sitting on top of me. Your blood starts flowing down and the trick is that you must strain and breathe in a certain technic in order to raise the blood back up, sort of stabilize yourself in this new environment. I made it twice and for the first time, I reached 7.5 G’s and then 8 G’s.

"Come at me bro!"
“Come at me bro!”

It’s interesting to hear that you took the G-Force personally. Why did you take it as a personal thing?

I don’t know but I felt like it was a hell of a challenge, my biggest one yet! And it was. I even started talking to it and humiliating it.

You were trying to create an upper hand, psychologically speaking.

Exactly! It was the best challenge I ever had, physically I mean.

You said you lost consciousness in this machine before?

Yes, twice. But you can stop the device whenever you want. You have a controller in your hand but I refused to stop it. I insisted on doing it till the end, even if it meant fainting in the process.

Quite a determination on your part! And I believe that the flight simulation was the thing you waited most to try out, am I correct? What were you supposed to do in it?

You got that right! It’s called the Jiro. It was cool hanging upside down. It’s a simulation for a plane and you have to reach a certain amount of G’s. You also start to get orders and you must follow these orders; like go up, down, left and right. Then they have the controller and start making extreme maneuvers.

Operating a flight simulator? Piece of cake!
Operating a flight simulator? Piece of cake!

That was like a combo machine!  Was it easier compared to the G-Force?

Way easier!  The only fear in that simulation is that you might throw up. They gave me a vomiting bay and I returned it clean as it is.

Yikes! I know I will definitely vomit if I do it. So you mentioned earlier that the army helped you get a bit of training and set you up before going on to Florida. Did they help you go through all these tests that you just mentioned?

Sure. The army was so helpful to the three of us, Samra, Hagagovitch and me. They were such great guys.

That’s good news to hear that you were supported by something “national” for once.

Exactly!

Bondok in the "Voyager" tent.
Bondok in the “Voyager” tent.

Now to the Space Camp part. How were you guys received in Florida? Where did you stay?

We stayed in big tents in front of the Astronaut’s Hall of fame in Florida. That camp side was called the Global Space Camp. We were divided in two tents, each tent with a name of a rocket.  Mine was the Voyager. Each tent had 12-13 contestants. I made great friends over there. The names were a problem at first so we started to call each other with our countries’ names. I was Egypt.

That’s kind of cool!  I get it that the competition wasn’t an obstacle to making friends?

Not at all!

The competition didn't limit the friendship making process.
The competition didn’t limit the friendship making process.

You stayed in Florida for about 5-6 days. How were your days spent in the camp?

We were playing all the time having fun, socializing and getting to know and deal with different cultures and religion. They were great times.

Did the other contestants ask you about the current situation in Egypt?

Not everyone was aware of it but some did ask and others were interested to find out especially my friend Philip from Switzerland. He’s studying Law and he had a problem with Morsi’s constitution amendments that he made, giving immunity to his decisions. As a fellow lawyer, I really enjoyed discussing it with him.

The tests you went through in Space Camp; were they the same as the ones you went through in training in Cairo?

 

Well this is where we leave off the interview for its second part next week. Stay tuned for it and in the meantime, you can check out  more on Bondok within the Global Space Camp via these links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35yKFGpKV8Y

http://youtu.be/kCd9GUqStzI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_swp5O7RJIg&feature=share

And you could also check out a few of his interviews as well:

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGZgtlrQhMo&feature=share&list=UUtpL6HyBK-z16GbJguHf3JQ

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erkF4KUW9vs

–          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9-OA0rl178&feature=share

Be sure to support him in his future accomplishments and dreams via his official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bndkofficial?ref=ts&fref=ts. Until next week with Part two of “The Dreamer, the Astronaut and the Nation within”.

 

 

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