Inspiring youth: Anousheh Ansari

Born in Iran and raised in the United States, Anousheh Ansari grew to become the first female private space explorer. She initially obtained her Masters degree in Electrical Engineering, but pursued her initial passion —space— while simultaneously earning patents and co-founding successful companies.

Anousheh Ansari sat down with us to answer a few questions regarding her motivations and what she hopes to inspire through her actions.

© Anousheh Ansari
Anousheh Ansari suited up

Why on Earth, space?

I had dreamed of going into outer space ever since I saw photographs of the planet. And seeing it in real life was even more majestic and totally worth it, in the sense that it put things into perspective. I think of my personal decisions’ impacts on a global level. That is, in fact, one of the reasons I think more people should go into space; policy makers may deeply move by such a powerful experience!

What do you feel is the role of Space today?

I think space plays a major role in both our daily life and our future. It is in this spirit that I contributed to the Ansari X Prize, to award private sector advances in the field of transporting people into space. We can turn the space travel from an abstract idea into a reality by provide a feasible solution. Space may hold answers to save our planet, thus it is the logical suite for a natural science education. The prize showed that space travel is no longer exclusively the business of governments, and I saw great promise in individuals who have already dared to pursue this.

© Anousheh Ansari

What challenges did you have to face along the way, career-wise?

As a woman, it was a struggle being taken seriously at first. Naturally, once I began meeting with people and they saw what I had to say, things changed. I’m quite a positive person, so I don’t look back at it with any resentment but I am committed to making a difference in today’s youth by showing that it is possible for women to have an impact in the sciences.

What advice would you give to young girls today?

I could be wrong, but because of the media’s portrayal of success I feel that people may think it comes easily. Whereas in reality, it is much closer to the ‘1% inspiration - 99% hardwork’ model. While I maintain that we should celebrate our ability to imagine in order to progress, I think students should focus on becoming as qualified as they can because it builds their capacities in the workplace and that was definitely something I had to prove when dealing with co-workers in what, unfortunately, is still a male-dominated field. However later, they learned to appreciate a woman’s point of view because our attitude towards solutions is quite different from that of a man. So stay in school, open your mind then follow what interests you with a passion, because hard work pays off. I like to think that my story should advocate this approach, so go after your dreams and, if you must, take chances!


Related links

  • First woman private space explorer advocates for more girls in Maths and Science: interview on United Nations Radio
  • Video: Anousheh Ansari's Mission to the International Space Station

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