Sara Sabry made history by participating in a Blue Origin flight in August 2022. (Credit: Blue Origin)

(CNN) -- Last year, Sara Sabry made history by becoming the first Egyptian, the first Arab woman, and the first African woman in space.

With a background in engineering and bioastronautics, she was chosen by the nonprofit Space for Humanity to join five other space tourists aboard a Blue Origin NS-22 suborbital spaceflight in August 2022.

He is now pursuing a PhD. A 30-year-old with a degree in aerospace science from the University of North Dakota, she says she realized that in space research "there are very few opportunities if you're not from the West." In response, he founded the Deep Space Initiative, a Colorado-based nonprofit that aims to increase access to the space industry for people of all backgrounds by providing research and education opportunities.

CNN spoke with Sabry at the Dubai Airshow last week to learn more about his experience in space and why he founded the Deep Space Initiative.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


CNN: How did you feel when you found out you'd been selected to go into space?

Sabry: I got the call on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, 50 years since the first humans landed on the Moon, so it was a very special day for me. Being where I come from and thinking that it was always going to be impossible for me, it was difficult to process, but it's something that I took on with a lot of responsibility.

CNN: How did you feel when you took off?

Sabry: It's the most exciting thing I've ever experienced. When you take off, you feel this engine ignite underneath you and, very quickly, the sky changes from light blue to darker blue, to violet and then to black, and that's the only thing that tells you that you're in space. It was beautiful and I was in awe. I think it's the most liberating feeling anyone can experience.

Sabry was chosen to join the Blue Origins flight by the nonprofit Space for Humanity. (Credit: Blue Origin)

CNN: How did you feel when you first saw Earth from space?

Sabry: It was very confusing, because we haven't biologically evolved to see Earth from space. We tend to look at space as if it's something very far away and separate from Earth, but it's not. I think realizing that, when it clicks, it really breaks your reality and your understanding of the world changes. For me personally, it's changed a lot more than I thought in terms of the scale of the world and how interconnected everything is.

CNN: Why did you create the Deep Space Initiative?

Sabry: The more I got involved in the space field, the more problems I saw, and there are very few opportunities if you're not Western, if you're not an American citizen, or if you're not European. My company allows people of different nationalities to work on those issues from different perspectives. Currently, we have about 205 people from 28 different nationalities working on 53 space projects, which is really cool to see.

CNN: What have you accomplished so far in the company?

Sabry: The Deep Space Initiative has been running several research programs and it's exciting to see the quality of work coming from these groups that otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to work on this. They are incredibly smart people and incredibly qualified to conduct this research, all they needed was this opportunity. All they needed was someone to believe in them. I hope that this initiative will pass on this belief to many more people around the world.

Sabry hopes that more women from Egypt and Africa will enter the space industry. (Credit: Blue Origin)

CNN: Why is representation and accessibility so important in space?

Sabry: By limiting the opportunities that exist for people of certain nationalities, we are also limiting the number of problems we can solve and the progress that can be made in a specific field. As for representation, it shows you that anything is possible. Becoming an astronaut wasn't something I dreamed of as a child because it wasn't something I was exposed to and we were always told it wasn't for us. Having representation says "someone else has done this and you can too."

CNN: What does it mean to you to be the first Egyptian, African and Arab woman to go into space?

Sabry: When I was sitting on that rocket, I wasn't just flying into space, I was taking my country and my continent with me. It really felt like a step forward not only for me personally but for many other people. That they can have that representation, see that things are possible even if they tell us that they are not. I wake up every morning and make all my decisions to fulfill that purpose. I have dedicated my life to this mission.