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City Of Sunny Isles Beach Community Spotlight: Zahra Ronizi

May 9, 2024

Sunny Isles Beach resident Zahra Ronizi has embarked on an impressive journey towards becoming an astronaut, showcasing a stellar commitment to her goals. As an 18-year-old high school senior, she has already interned at NASA and served as a Crew Biologist at Astroland Interplanetary Agency in Spain, contributing to Mars Mission Simulations. As she is set to attend Harvard next school year, Zahra is leaving a lasting impact on the future of space exploration.

Zahra’s passion for space was ignited at the age of five during an unexpected detour on a trip to Disney World in Orlando.

“My dad accidentally took the wrong exit off I-95 and the exit led to Merritt Island, which is where the Kennedy Space Center is located,” she recalled. That detour changed her life forever. “It was really there when I saw all of the awesome photos of space and the planets,” Zahra said. “It was really then that I wanted to be an astronaut and eventually go to Mars one day.”

Since then, her dedication to space and science has only grown, fueled by an appetite for books written by astronauts and astrophysicists, as well as watching space documentaries and movies. Driven by a desire to specialize in Space Medicine, Zahra was intrigued by the science of protecting astronauts and the human body in space. She began researching how to do surgery in outer space.

“We don’t have technologies to do surgery in space,” she explained. “I got my scuba diving certification and bought a little [suture] kit that surgeons practice on, and I went underwater inside a pool to resemble the weightlessness and free flow that astronauts experience in space, and I started doing little lines of sutures and timing myself.”

This research opened doors, allowing her to participate in programs many only dream of, such as living in a cave to simulate a mission to Mars for the Analog Astronaut Mission in Spain.

“I was living with a crew of five women from all across Europe inside a cave for a week, it was extreme cold,” she said. “It was a very challenging experience, especially for me, coming from warm Sunny Isles Beach.”

During the mission, Zahra and her team conducted sampling missions, with her task being to take biological samples using techniques that would be used to search for signs of life on Mars. Despite encountering challenges including equipment malfunctions and dangerous situations, Zahra’s leadership and quick thinking ensured her team’s safety.

“We made it back safely and our mission was successful,” she said. After her transformative experience, Zahra aimed to inspire other children to pursue space exploration. She organized a NASA Astronaut event for kids in Sunny Isles Beach in May of 2023, offering a live Q&A session and the opportunity to watch Axiom Ax-2 Mission Pilot and Astronaut, John Shoffner in space.

“They got to see him do flips in the air and ask him questions,” said Zahra.

This event was part of Zahra’s Odyssey Scholarship Program, which she started in the ninth grade to support underserved students and address the lack of diversity in space-related fields.

“I wanted to see other students be able to pursue these opportunities as well,” she said.

Through her scholarship program, Zahra has conducted a mentorship program and raised funds to help South Florida students participate in STEM initiatives that she created.

“That was an incredible experience to bring my dreams and my goals into my community,” she said. While Zahra plans to expand her horizons hundreds of miles away, she still wants to support her community during her time in college the best she can.

“I see myself continuing to pursue my dream, continuing to follow the path of reaching for greatness and reaching for the stars,” she said.


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