Breaking Earth’s Gravity (And Other Barriers)
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 message do you hope your space flight will send to Middle Eastern women, and to Middle Eastern men?
Anousheh Ansari: Actually I think space travel is a dream for many men and women. I think my trip will be perceived differently by different genders because for women, a lot of time, not only space travel, it’s not accessible to everyone, but is even less accessible to women, there are a lot more barriers for them especially if they live in countries where things like space travel, engineering, any science and technology-related field would be considered a more male-dominated, male-appropriate field. And so I want to show them that there is nothing preventing woman, or making them less qualified to be involved in any of these fields. But equally, I think men also get very interested because, as I said, that space is not accessible today to many people and one of my goals as my involvement through Ansari X Prize was to create opportunity for everyone equally, men and women.
Question: What role do women’s rights play in the ongoing public protests in Iran?
Anousheh Ansari: I would say that women’s rights are definitely a key issue because you also see women actually in a way being very, very active in this movement. It has been an issue over the past years, and the situation sort of fluctuates sometimes it gets a little bit easier and then it gets harder again, and overall, I think women in Iran are very resilient and I am very proud of all the Iranian women that are standing up for their rights and speaking out, and I hope that they will succeed and I am glad the international community is paying attention and supporting them as well.
The astronaut describes what her space flight meant for Middle Eastern women and why she is proud of female protesters in her native Iran.
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