Back to Blog
Dr. Farouk El-Baz, a former NASA scientist who played a key role in the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, will receive the Coptic Orphans Leading by Example Award at our 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, VA on Oct. 11.

Former NASA scientist Dr. Farouk El-Baz, who played a key role in the Apollo 15 moon mission, will receive the Coptic Orphans Leading by Example Award at our 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, VA on Oct. 11.

Our Gala celebrations for Coptic Orphans’ 25th Anniversary are now just days away!

I’m looking forward to seeing so many of you at the Galas in Canada (Sept. 28) the United States (Oct. 11) and Australia (Nov. 9).

You are the reason we’ve been able to reach this milestone of 25 years and 30,000 children empowered. Without your devoted prayers, volunteering, and support, thousands of kids in Egypt would lead much harder lives and be less prepared to break the cycle of poverty.

As we celebrate, it’s with the knowledge that some of our community’s foremost leaders know and recognize the importance of this work.

First among these leaders is His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. His commitment to personally come to the Gala in Canada and accept the Leading by Example Award affirms the importance he attaches to caring for the children.

Today, I’d like to introduce another important leader who will receive the Leading by Example Award. We’re honored that Dr. Farouk El-Baz will be present at the U.S. Gala in Reston, Virginia.

Egypt has long been a country known for its mathematicians and scientists. Since ancient times, many of the world’s leading scientists have come from Egypt, and modern times are no exception. One of the most influential modern scientists to hail from Egypt is former NASA scientist Dr. Farouk El-Baz, who today is part of the Advisory Council of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Dr. Farouk El-Baz was born on January 2, 1938 in Zagazig. He studied at Ain Shams University, and at age 20 received a B.Sc. in chemistry and geology. Soon after, he traveled to the United States, and received a MS degree in geology from what is now Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1961. In 1964, he received his PhD in geology from the Missouri University of Science, and throughout the years Dr. El-Baz has received many other honorary degrees from universities across the United States and Egypt.

Beginning in 1967, Dr. El-Baz’s extensive knowledge and expertise was utilized when he joined NASA as Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning on the Apollo Program. Over the next six years, Dr. El-Baz was given the responsibility of selecting sites for the Apollo missions. One of the titles Dr. El-Baz held was “Chairman of the Astronaut Training Group.”

Dr. El-Baz did such a fantastic and detailed job of preparing the astronauts of Apollo 15 for their mission that Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden said, “After the King’s [Dr. El-Baz’s nickname] training, I feel like I’ve been here before.” Dr. El-Baz was so talented at translating complex scientific terms into layman’s terms that he was also regularly in charge of briefing the press on the results of the missions.

After the completion of his tasks with NASA, Dr. El-Baz joined the Smithsonian Institution, and was also elected as a member of the Lunar Nomenclature Task Group of the International Astronomical Union, which he is still a part of, and where he names characteristics of the moon as exhibited in photographs taken on lunar missions.

Having been such an asset in his previous work with them, NASA appointed Dr. El-Baz to the post of Principal Investigator of the Earth Observations and Photography Experiment on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which was the first combined space mission between America and the USSR, in 1975. On this mission, a strong priority was placed on capturing images of dry and arid environments such as the Sahara Desert, as well as other features of the planet. Some of these images are displayed in the halls of Boston University, where Dr. El-Baz now teaches.

Dr. El-Baz spent several years traveling to different ends of the globe to collect data, even chronicling one of his journeys for National Geographic and the Explorers Journal. Having spent so much time and effort researching the origins of deserts, Dr. El-Baz was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Next, Dr. El-Baz joined Itek Optical Systems as President, where he oversaw the use of the Space Shuttles Large Format Camera photos.

As a service to his native Egypt, Dr. El-Baz also served as Science Advisor to the late President Anwar El Sadat, from 1978 1981. In this role, he was responsible for selecting areas of desert land that could be developed without harming the environment, to accommodate Egypt’s growing population. In 1986, Dr. El-Baz joined Boston University as a Research Professor and the Director of the Center for Remote Sensing. He continues to conduct research using satellite images to learn about the world’s deserts. He is even responsible for changing the common belief that deserts are man-made by giving evidence and spreading the concept that they are, in fact, the result of major changes in the world’s climates. Dr. El-Baz is also credited with locating groundwater in the arid locations of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and his native Egypt. He found the groundwater by analyzing radar images of depressions in the terrain, believing that these depressions must indicate the presence of groundwater.

Dr. El-Baz continues to inspire students through his classes and research at Boston University. As a result of his life-changing and life-improving research and projects, Dr. El-Baz was elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America and to the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World TWAS, among others. A Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research has even been established by the Geological Society of America, and the Farouk El-Baz Student Research Award has been created to inspire new generations to continue desert research.

Dr. El-Baz has led a very full life and contributed much to science, and to his native Egypt. He is one of Egypt’s most influential scientists, and we are honored to be presenting him with Coptic Orphans’ Leading by Example Award.

I’m looking forward to seeing you in Reston on Oct. 11, when Dr. El-Baz receives his award. I’m sure he will offer us insights into his research, its implications for Egypt’s future, and his vision for making that future one of prosperity and greatness.

To learn more details about the Coptic Orphans 25th Anniversary Gala in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 11, and to obtain tickets, please visit our Gala web page. Details about the Canada and Australia Galas are also available there.