Have you ever asked someone to name inspirational people, dead or alive? You will probably get answers like Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong or Tariq Ramadan. I mean, we cannot deny that these and so many other men have done amazing things and are definitely worth the title. But I have noticed that people are most likely to name men when it comes to powerful people. Little do they know that women have done and still are doing some pretty amazing things. So in this series I want to talk to you about women whose names are often forgotten or simply ignored because of the patriarchal society we live in. The most important thing is that you remember their names and achievements.
You know when people tell you ‘the sky is the limit’? Well Anousheh Ansari took this saying to a whole other level. In September 2006 she became the very first woman to ever go to space. But not only was she the first female space tourist, she was also the first Muslim woman of Iranian descent. Obviously being able to travel into space does not happen overnight. It took a lot of hard work and this is her story.
Anousheh was born in pre-revolution Iran in 1966. Approximately twenty years later, in 1984, she moved to the United States. This is where she received her bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering at the George Mason University. After that she earned her master’s in electric engineering at the George Washington University. So we can definitely say that Anousheh Ansari is a very well educated woman who knows what she wants.
After completing her studies, Anousheh started a company with her husband in 1993. It was a telecommunications company which they sold a few years later to Sonus Network. In 2002, she started showing her first interest in space exploration. It was this year that Anousheh and her brother-in-law donated the large sum of ten million dollars to the X Prize Foundation. This is a foundation that supports competitions to encourage innovations that could benefit humanity.
But enough about business, time to talk about how she got to be the very first woman becoming a space tourist. Or as she likes to call herself: a ‘spaceflight participant’. In 2006, Anousheh arranged to replace Enomoto Daisuke, a Japanese businessman who could not participate due to medical reasons. So in the early start of 2006, Anousheh started her training in Russia to become a space tourist. Then finally on September 18th, Anousheh and her team were sent to the International Space Station where they spent nine days.
When Anousheh Ansari was asked what she was hoping to achieve with her spaceflight she said that she wanted to inspire young people and especially young women from all over the world who are not always given the same opportunities as men. She hoped that she could inspire them to never give up on their dreams. Even though the dreams seem impossible at first, having a strong will and taking opportunities will definitely help them to achieve anything they want.
If you think Anousheh stopped being productive after her spaceflight, you are very wrong. Today she fills her days as a businesswoman. She is the chairman and co-founder of Prodea, a digital technology company that wants to simplify consumer’s digital experience.
This is the story of a woman who never gave up on her dreams. A woman that achieved many goals through education and finding opportunities. A woman that did not only aspire but also inspire.