Interview by Kourosh Ziabari and Ahmadreza Tavassoli
The second anniversary of Anousheh Ansari's adventurous travel to the spatial station as the first Iranian space explorer passed over with the reticence of global media who have been busy analyzing the very earliest "side effects" of President-elect Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 US Presidential Elections.
In the heat of Ansari's space voyage, American media broached bunches of controversial issues such as the reluctance of half-blooded astronaut to introduce herself as Iranian or Muslim, but she never found the opportunity to clarify this.
Furthermore, most of the newspapers or websites dedicated their conversations to professional and technical matters when interviewing Anousheh Ansari which caused many stories to remain untold.
Following is the text of exclusive interview with the first female private space explorer Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian businesswomen who has perpetuated the name of Iran in the 2007 edition of Guinness World Records Book with her everlasting record.
Mrs. Ansari! Two years passed since you made that historic travel to the spatial station as the first female space explorer; but on that specific time the mainstream media focused on you, not only for being a female voyager, but also for being an Iranian Muslim. What's your conception of being a Muslim born in Iran? Are you restraining to announce or approve it publicly?
I have always advertised my Persian roots and I'm proud to do so. I always start my story by telling everyone that I was born in Iran and show the map of Iran with my place of birth, Mashhad. My Iranian root is a big part of who I am the same way that my life in America has shaped my life.
I have always been a spiritual person and my spiritual beliefs were strengthened during my trip to Space. When you see the earth from space and understand how small and fragile it is compared to the dark universe that surrounds it, it gives you a new perspective on life and how small and insignificant we are and how silly it is to fight over things that are but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.
I had also brought a copy of Holy Quran with myself to the spatial station which was a personal decision without any political motivation. I also carried prayers given to me by my parents and friends.
Also I have to add something for the accuracy of title which I had been given, which many newspapers and TV channels broadcast it mistakenly. I was considered the first Private women space traveler, not the first female astronaut. The first woman cosmonaut was also the first woman to ever fly to space and her name was Valentina Terishkova. The Guinness Book of World Records has registered my name as the first Private woman space explorer as well as the first Iranian in space.
Many of your fans or those who follow your prosperities regularly remember that you had started the blogging carrier few months before commencing the space mission. Your space blog was gaining an unprecedented popularity worldwide, but you stopped updating it suddenly. What had happened on that time?
I started blogging because I wanted to share my experience with as many people as possible and I was very happy to see how well receive the blog was. However writing from the heat and writing something of significance, requires a level of dedication that I could afford at that time.
I am very engaged with my new company and between my educational projects and my business; I have very little time to blog. I enjoyed blogging and read most of the comments people wrote to me; hence, I continue to receive many messages, I cannot possibly read and respond to every message I get because it is more than a full time job, but I try to keep up with them.
At the beginning, when the slated schedule of your affiliated company for the space program was announced, you were not supposed to be that astronaut who had been appointed to run for the mission. But after your Japanese colleague failed to pass the medical and practical examinations successfully, you were replaced immediately which should have been a kind of shocking news for Mr. Enomoto beside of being an unbelievable, exciting incident to you. am I right on that?
As soon as I found out, I called him to see how he was doing. On one had as you mentioned, I was very exited at the prospect of being able to fly to space, on the other hand I felt uneasy since I had become friend with Mr. Enomoto during our training together and I knew how much he wanted to fly. When I talked to him, naturally he was disappointed, but he was determined to take care of his medical issue and to try again to fly in a future flight. He encouraged me to fly and offered to help. I asked him if I could do anything for him and he gave me a few of his personal items to fly to ISS with me, which I did.
Once the news on your space exploration came out in the media, many critics and journalists worldwide stated that $20 million is too much to be spent for such an individual intention which could be potentially used for charity or instructional purposes, instead. Do you agree with them?
I believe that each person is entitled to their opinion. My family and I worked hard and made many sacrifices for the money we earned and the decision on how to spend it should be ours alone. I support causes that are important to me and my family in the ways that I believe is effective.
At the same time I feel that my trip has impacted many lives and inspired many people around the world to pursue their dreams. Having hope and inspiration is a priceless gift and I was fortunate enough to have been able to play a small role in giving a glimpse of hope and inspiration to many.
For the last question, let me ask if you have any idea or suggestion for the scientific communities and researchers of Iran to improve their skills and find their dissevered global position?
I believe Iranians are very smart and have great potential given the right opportunities. This is obvious based on their accomplishments in their new homelands around the world. Unfortunately their opportunities are limited inside Iran and because of wars and sanctions and other issues, the country is not considered as art of the advanced world. I believe if Iran would join the global economy and provided the right opportunities, it could advance and catch-up with developed countries with a few year lag.
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2008 © Kourosh Ziabari & Ahmadreza Tavassoli