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The 24-year-old aerospace engineer who grew up in the 93rd district was recruited.

The 24-year-old aerospace engineer who grew up in the 93rd district was recruited.

Paris Once upon a time there was Alan Peter. He dreamed of the stars among the buildings of the suburbs of Paris, joined NASA and reached the planet Venus. For now, only the ending is a fictional story: the rest is a real “French success story”.

The person in question, a 24-year-old with the build of a supermodel, the ambition of an explorer and a lot of courage, prefers to talk about “luck” bordering on “bad face.” As of January, he will be one of the rare aliens hired by NASA and certainly the youngest: he will begin working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on future missions to Venus. But the journey it has taken so far, from the working-class neighborhoods of St. Denis to the laboratories of Pasadena, may be longer than the planets in the solar system. Emmanuel Macron was keen to congratulate him personally, and sent him a loud message on LinkedIn: “Bravo! “It’s proof that you should always believe in your dreams.”

And Alan always believed this, ever since, when he returned from a school trip to the planetarium in elementary school, he said to himself: “When I grow up I will be an astronaut.” Clearly this has been treated with disdain and disdain by everyone for years. Except from him. His parents – his father is a computer technician, and his mother is a cafeteria assistant in a kindergarten – have always supported him, but called on him to pursue more realistic ambitions. As is the case with teachers. And also because he was good at school, but without any particular genius. Average grades, but definitely exceptional due to the stubbornness and determination to follow his passion: the starry sky. Today, he tours the schools of his former neighborhood and tells the children and young people in the offices: Believe it.

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The department of Saint-Denis, known in the country by its administrative number “93,” is almost always in the news because of less typical facts: revolts in “difficult” neighborhoods, the youth unemployment rate, among the highest in France, and per capita income, among the lowest. Those looking for a job were born, raised or live in ’93 simply try to hide that from their resume.

Alan made it a starting point. After graduating from high school, he hesitates and gives in to the teachers’ advice (“Today is always nice,” he says): Choose the path that guarantees you a job. So he enrolled in a two-year university course to become an accountant. At the end of the first year, after completing all the tests, we say: now or never, and change course. Moving from “Management and Accounting” to “Thermal and Power Engineering”. The faculty members are two hours from home, leaving in the morning at 6, returning at 8.30pm, and on weekends he works as a sales assistant at a Hugo Boss outlet. At the age of nineteen, he applied to engineering school, asking to alternate between work and school. “Within a quarter of an hour, I received two positive responses: they took me from school, and a company offered me alternative work: it was the Ariane Group.” Ariane: Those missiles. For the first time, the phrase “When I grow up I want to be an astronaut” is no longer just a dream.

Training and employment
How things were then, he continues to talk these days through continuous interviews, having also been received by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who repeated: “You are an example.” He connected online with a researcher from the University of Florida who works in an astrophysics laboratory and received an internship: “When I was there I witnessed the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. “The noise of the reactors, the shaking of the ground, what a wonderful memory.” Building on his success with the University of Florida, he tried the same method again with NASA. From the computer in his room, he communicated via email with a NASA researcher interested in his work. They began In arguing that she is interested in his “atypical profile” and pushes his candidacy. Interviews follow and finally yes: he is hired, and will serve as a fluid mechanics engineer on the Veritas mission. The goal: to send a probe to Venus by 2031.

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To become an astronaut, you need other, highly selective competitions: “And I will try. “I really want to say this to kids: opportunities don’t always come by themselves, sometimes we have to create them.”

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