First female private space explorer shares how she achieved her dream

Originally published in the Central Florida Future: http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/news/first-female-private-space-explorer-shares-how-she-achieved-her-dream-1.2719375#.T24JyGwUJu0.facebook

Chuckles were heard throughout the Live Oak Ballroom on Thursday evening as nearly 30 students waited to hear speaker Anousheh Ansari share the story of her journey to the stars.

As a young girl in Iran, Ansari would gaze into the night skies imagining a world much different than Earth.

“I would think about the worlds out there and the UFOs that would take me back with them,” Ansari said during a visual presentation, which narrated the different phases in her life that led her to space exploration.

The crowd stared at the juxtaposition of two images—one was a drawing of Ansari in a rocket soaring into the sky, while the other was a photograph that captured the departure of a spacecraft that she flew in; the illustrations were identical. 

In 2006, almost 35 years after Ansari drew the optimistic image, she lived out her greatest dream. But instead of UFOs, it was a Russian capsule en route to the International Space Station that brought her drawing to life.

As the first female private space explorer, Ansari’s mission to the stars made headlines throughout the world. But as the first Iranian to take a trip into space, Ansari’s voyage also touched hearts and inspired spirits throughout her homeland.

Shabnam Sabbagh, who was still living in Iran when Ansari was making history, remembers just how influentialAnsari was to her. 

“It was totally inspiring for me because I could actually relate to her a lot—I always was dreaming about going to space,” the first-year digital media graduate student said. “I always knew about what she was doing and [I was always] reading about her online.”

The event, which was organized by the Multicultural Student Center, was held as one of MSC’s Month of the Woman events, a signature event, which celebrates the contributions made by women throughout the world. 

“We wanted to bring someone who could empower women and show them that no matter what you want to do, you can get to it, you just have to work hard for it,” said junior accounting major and MSC’s Diversity Education Director Melissa Stevens. “She’s a very powerful woman. She wanted to go to space and she did what she had to do to getthere.”

Following her visual presentation, Ansari announced her latest aspiration—world peace, a goal she believes can eventually be achieved with the help of commercial space launches. 

According to Ansari, the International Space Station is the perfect example of the magnificent things that humans can build when they put aside their religious beliefs and work through language barriers. She believes that if more people had the chance to see our planet from outer space, they’d realize that it’s wiser to try and preserve our Earth as a collective, instead of focusing simply on every nation’s individual domestic goals.

“You see a different view of the world up there,” Ansari said. “All these lines that we see on a map are lines that we drew on a paper. Up there you can’t tell [where] the countries start or end, [and] if it wasn’t for the water, we wouldn’t recognize the continents either.”

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