On September 18, 2006, Anousheh Ansari captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer. She was the fourth private explorer to visit space and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.
Ansari is also a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and chairman of Prodea Systems, a company that aims to simplify consumers' digital living experience. Prior to founding Prodea, Ansari served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc.
To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Ansari and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.
Ansari is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teachers in Space project.
Question: What was your most exciting moment in outer space?
Anousheh Ansari: I think one of the most memorable moments was when I first saw earth because I had seen many pictures, many videos of earth from space, and being able to see that with my own eyes had a completely different effect, and sort of almost sensing life emanating from our planet in the dark background of the space, it was a really memorable experience.
Question: What was your most frightening moment in outer space?
Anousheh Ansari: I wasn’t frightened. I’d been living this in my head for many, many years, so I sort of had played all of these scenarios of flying into space and seeing earth. I think I was very prepared for it. It was almost a completely joyful, very happy, very exciting experience, and I didn’t have time or any desire to think about what things could go wrong.
Question: How close are we to “space tourism”?
Anousheh Ansari: Well, the first design which is the design that won the Ansari X Prize that was designed by Mohave Air and Space has been commercialized by Virgin Galactic. Right now I think the plans are for the first commercial flight to take place in 2012. So, it’s not that far away, and I think from there, we will see a lot more competition, and I know many other companies are building, you know, designing new spacecraft for orbital and suborbital flight. So, as soon as we see competition then we’ll see the prices come down and really an industry being created.