ANAHEIM, Calif. — Loay Elbasyouni has his eye on two things, progress and peace.
As a Palestinian refugee from Gaza, his dream was to work as an engineer.
After moving to the United States, not only did he do that, he also helped NASA design the first helicopter to fly on Mars, a mission known as Ingenuity.
“I always wanted to study aeronautics and space, but at that time I was thinking, ‘hey, Palestine is not even a country, so it doesn’t really have a space program, so how can I help my people with it?’ I always liked to build things. I was thinking maybe I could build something and sell it, but I was like you know, I really want to make a difference in the world, so it made me really want to become an engineer. So I studied electrical engineering," he said.
As he works out of a lab in Anaheim, Elbasyouni said he is extremely proud of being part of NASA’s mission to fly on Mars. Not only was the theory of flight proven, his own personal flight was proven, as he overcame hurdles in migrating to the U.S., and climbing up the ranks as an engineer with NASA.
“The excitement when we did the first flight was unimaginable. It was mixed between joy, excitement and tears. I was screaming in the middle of the night, it was like 4 a.m. when we first got the feed through NASA TV. It was an incredible feeling, it made me feel like I am a part of history," he said.
But no matter how much success he attains as an engineer, he never forgets his roots. He checks on his father daily in Gaza. And he wants people to know that the average Palestinian desires peace and equality.
“We are just people like anybody in the world," he said. "We want to live in peace and succeed. Build a prosperous future for our children, and live in a free, safe and peaceful place.”