Pakistani woman’s inspiring journey from a refugee camp to NASA

Hiba Rehmani is working as an avionics engineer at the United States’ National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA).

“My fondest memory growing up is taking walks with my family at night, either in the desert or on the sidewalk by the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, looking up at the sky to admire the moon and stars, and thinking about astronauts such as Neil Armstrong who have stepped on the moon” – Hiba said, speaking to a local media channel, giving us a brief insight of her challenging journey to where she is today,

Hiba was born in Pakistan but left the country to live in Kuwait when she was only one month old. However, the happy memories of staring at the stars lasted a brief time, after which the war drums rang.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1999, she had to flee along with her family, saving their lives. The night they reached the  Iraq-Jordan border, there were not enough tents and hence they had to spend several days in the sand and scorching heat, without shelter.

But among all the chaos, she found her escape in staring at the stars – which became a driving force for her to join NASA.

“Even though this was a tough time for us, one of the things I remember from that night was having a nice view of the sky with the golden moon and stars, while trying to sleep on the cold desert sand. It reminded me of my goals and dreams.”

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Following her brief stay in Jordon, she travelled back to Pakistan with her mother and sisters. Her father was in the US, and after years, they reunited back here in their native country.

The us-led coalition put a full stop to the Gulf War and a ceasefire was signed in February 1991, after which Hiba returned back to Kuwait with her family. With her new passion, she decided to pursue a degree in engineering, easing her way to NASA.

After high school, she moved to the US and pursued bachelor’s in computer engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Concluding her studies, she joined Boeing as a systems engineer for the International Space Station (ISS).

In 2008, Rahmani finally fulfilled her dream and joined NASA’s Engineering and Technology Directorate at Kennedy.

“I support NASA’s Launch Services Program, working on expendable launch vehicles such as the Pegasus XL and Falcon 9” – she said, speaking to the mentioned source. 

“I provide technical expertise, follow launch vehicle testing, perform data reviews and provide technical assessments of engineering issues.” – Hiba added. 

She says that the most exciting part of her job is watching the rocket into space. With her exceptional career, she also likes to speak about her challenging journey. ”I love to inspire others” – as she says it.

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