Adonis Diaries

First Woman in Space, Anousheh Ansari: In visit to Lebanon

Posted on: December 17, 2014


First Woman in Space,  Anousheh Ansari: In visit to Lebanon

Passionate about space and stars, Anousheh Ansari tells her extraordinary story on how she made it to space.

I had the chance to meet her today in Berytech where she impressed everyone with her experience and vision about space and future ideas she’s working on.

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Anousheh Ansari at Beirut Digital District

Born in Iran, Ansari showed a passion for space. She used to watch stars when unable to sleep at night and asked herself many times on what’s hidden in space. She moved to US during the Iranian war, she was 16 years old back then.

“When i went to US, I thought this is my chance to change my life and apply to space, but it was too difficult, I wanted to study astrophysics. Mom said what do you wanna be? A teacher?“ Said Ansari

Her mom wanted her to take a different path and work as a lawyer, doctor or engineer.

Engineering became her career after she studied it at George Mason University, and continued her masters in Washington DC.

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Ansari to the left, sharing her space experience – Maroun Chammas to the right, CEO of Berytech

She still wanted to go to space, with no idea on how to do that, just kept her passion and awaited the opportunity.
She began working at MCI, where she met her husband, Hamid Ansari. They married in 1991. Few years later, they co-founded their own company which they called Telecom Technologies Inc

“I Worked a little on VoIP even before skype, but no one believed in its power back then, now everyone knows about it”

In 2000, she sold TTI, a company she started years before.

That’s when she focused more about getting to space.
With her friend Peter, she established X PRIZE foundation which is a non-profit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind.

They did a 10 million dollars competition where you have to demonstrate that you can fly to space twice in 2 weeks.

She became partner with Peter and in 2004 a team won. They spent 25 million to win the 10 million competition but gave a brilliant idea. They sold it for Sir Richard Branson. It was a success, a whole industry was launched from it.

This idea is what is called now Virgin galactic, a British commercial spaceflight company within the Virgin Group which hopes to develop commercial spacecraft and provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions, and orbital launches of small satellites.

In 2006, Anousheh got to the russian space program, she was pursuing her love for space and training in their station. She spent about 8 months full time in Stars City – Russia as preparations, where she underwent physical trainings along with astronauts.
I had to learn Russian, basically Space Russian” she said.

3 weeks before the mission, one Japanese astronaut developed kidney stone problems. So miraculously, they offered her the mission instead.  “It was a miracle”

“It’s a life changing experience, especially for someone who loves space and earth pictures.
It’s a completely different experience when you see it live, It changed everything in me” said Ansari.

The commercial vehicles, similar to the one I used are the ones that travels, comes back but are only usable for 1 time only. The capsule had enough space for 3 people. But it is too tight.

“I sat in the scientist seat, the 2 other seats are for a engineer and pilot”

The launch happened from Kazakhstan after 2 weeks of heavy training. “During that time i was very happy and afraid of being scared of the launch day. I kept trying to lower my pulse down and told my examination doctors, If my blood pressure is high please don’t stop the mission please”

The day of the launch Anousheh was surprised she wasn’t scared, she sat for an hour before taking off reviewing her life.

“It was a strange feeling, I connected the dots of the people i met to achieve the dream I’m going to live in about an hour”

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Anousheh Ansari in her spacesuit

Arriving to the space, Ansari felt a sense of freedom she never felt before.

“I started crying the first time i saw earth from the capsule, you feel that it is something alive with lots of energy and live coming from it”. Anousheh orbited 220 miles from earth, where she stayed for 11 days.
She conducted 4 experiments. 2 of them had to do with the physical changes in the body.
You are 2 inches taller in space because there’s no gravity. But it put strains on your back.
It puts pressure on your sinuses and face because of your body fluids moving up.

3rd  experiment was the Bacteria test. How they develop and live in space. And finally, she tested the amount of radiations one can be exposed too up there.

7 people have gone to space on commercial flights, Anousheh is the 4th and first woman.

Virgin galactic are going to fly next year with a capsule able to fit 7 passengers.

Dubai is investing in it where they intend to send space flights from UAE.

Also Space X will be flying alone in 2016 and will start commercial trips in 2018

On the future of space expeditions Anousheh said, “I believe space is full of hidden resources and capabilities that we will use soon, because we are consuming a lot here in earth and our resources are limited”

“We need to reduce the cost of flying to space by creating competitions, technology will evolve and cost will be lowered.

Nothing was annoying in her trip, but there’s no privacy in space as the capsule is too small.

“I believe there’s 100% intelligence life in space, I don’t know the chances if we can reach it but I’m afraid we continue our life like this on earth, because we are destroying it”

Going back to earth took her 2 days only to match the orbit exactly. She said that now they do it in half a day.

Going back to earth is much more intense because the gravity force is doubled
“You see flaming sparkles coming out of the window, I thought the capsule was disintegrating”

She landed on the ground with 4 parachutes slowing the capsule down

Anousheh is now working on Prodea, a gigantic project to transform the way people see technology and make it accessible to everyone.

She said that next year she’s hopefully planning to visit Iran for the first time after the war.

Ansari’s story is an amazing example on pursuing your dream.

She finally said:

“If you have a dream, Talk about it, don’t be shy. Everyone knew about my love for space. A sequel of events helped me later to get to space. I always looked for doors and my dream came true, because of my willingness to go there. Chances arise but i was close to people who loved everything I’m passionate about.”

Mhّmd Dankar

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December 2014

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