Moroccan YouTuber Najib El Mokhtari walked his viewers through the life of retired NASA astronaut Daniel Tani.
By Mohammed Amine Benabou
Rabat – Moroccan YouTuber Najib El Mokhtari held an interview with NASA astronaut Daniel Tani about his trips into outer space, space discoveries, and trending technologies in the aerospace industry.
During the interview, Tani described how the earth looks like through the space shuttle window: “Our earth is beautiful. There are so many colors, textures, and shapes … At night, you can see cities, rivers.”
He continued, “The Nile [river] just lights up as it winds its way down. Looking out the window is just fantastic. I could never get enough.”
Tani also described how almost all geopolitical borders are indistinguishable from outer space, making the world look like a global village.
Tani commented that one can “very, very rarely see political borders,” explaining that they are only visible when they follow the natural boundary of rivers. “When you look down, you think of humanity. You don’t think of nationality.”
El Mokhtari remarked on scientific advances and that humans have managed to send robots to Mars, which he said “has been seen as a deity for millennia.”
Tani noted that he thinks people will go even further: “It’s amazing to think, we built something and now it’s driving around Mars taking pictures and samples.”
El Mokhtari wondered where Tani sees these space explorations going in the decades to come.
Tani responded that we “will continue to explore our space.” He believes the most exciting thing that’s happened in the past four or five years is that satellites “used to be the size of a school bus, now we are figuring out [that] it’s smarter to make a 10-centimeter satellite.”
A number of these relatively tiny satellites will be launched and programmed to carry out various individual tasks, like taking pictures or measuring the depth of the ocean, instead of a large and costly single satellite performing a series of different functions at once.
Will Morocco go to the moon?
Tani expressed his delight at the interview with El Mokhtari and his time in Morocco, tweeting, “I was privileged to visit Morocco and I had a great interview with Najib – a famous personality in Morocco. We covered a lot of topics and had a wonderful time.”
The interview was not limited to space trips and explorations; El Mokhtari and Tani also touched on the education system. Tani’s piece of advice was that he wishes Moroccan schools would integrate non-educators specializing in fields like accounting, law, etc., to come and explain, for example, “the basics of numbers” to bring a “different experience, a wealth of experience” to students.
El Mokhtari said in a Facebook post that, during their pre-interview discussion, Tani told him “Moroccan talented youths are some of the best he has ever seen.”
He also said he “is looking forward to the first Moroccan that’s going to build a satellite and get to space.”
Science in Morocco
A 2016 Web “Personality of the Year,” Najib El Mokhtari is an IT consultant in Morocco.
Through his YouTube videos and blogs, El Mokhtari is dedicated to walking his viewers through complex science topics in simple Darija (Moroccan Arabic) in an easily digestible manner, making his videos accessible to a fan-base of more than 97,000 subscribers.
El Mokhtari’s YouTube channel and Othmane Safsafi’s “Science Math” YouTube and Facebook accounts are two of the most popular social media accounts, out of very few, devoted to the popularization of science in Morocco.
Not only does he tackle scientific phenomena, El Mokhtari also conducts scientific experiments even with everyday equipment.
In 2016, El Mokhtari met the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a conference in the Canary Islands and made a video in which Tyson addressed Moroccans.
After a career as a consultant supporting clients in over a dozen countries, El Mokhtari decided to come back to Morocco and started his popular YouTube science channel.
The interview is part of the US embassy’s year-round events in celebration of the first moon landing’s 50th anniversary when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The US launched its Apollo 11 mission to the moon on July 20, 1969.
El Mokhtari’s interview was set up in coordination with the US embassy in Rabat, which organized a series of “Moonshot Morocco” events, beginning two weeks ago which will run until July.
The purpose of the event, the US embassy wrote on Facebook, was “to focus on future leaders in science, technology, innovation, and risk-taking … helping Morocco’s talented youth achieve their full potential, and take on challenges as weighty and magnificent as sending a human to the moon.”
In the same vein, the US Mission in Morocco held conferences in Kenitra, Casablanca, and Rabat.