Pakistan’s First Astronaut: A Star Is Launched
By Maha Mussadaq for The Express Tribune
Namira Salim’s star is about to launch as she is set to become Pakistan’s first astronaut. Her maiden voyage will be in 2012.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Salim said this was a dream come true for her. All her hard work and training will soon pay off. Although the date for the launch is not yet fixed, she says her team is ready.
“I got my first telescope when I was 14 years old,” says Salim. Holding a Master’s in international affairs from Columbia University, Salim was an active member of astronomy clubs in college and university and was also the first female member of the Amateur Astronomy Society of Pakistan. Rather than being a hindrance, Salim says that her gender always gave her an edge over her male counterparts.
Salim, who divides her time between Dubai and Paris, was feted for her groundbreaking achievements by President Zardari, who awarded her the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for excellence in sports.
Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, officially launched Salim as a Virgin Galactic Founder Astronaut in Dubai in March 2006. Hearing of this, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting dubbed her the first Pakistani astronaut.
She is also the First Asian to skydive from an altitude higher than the peak of Mount Everest, at 29,480 feet. Salim also hoisted the national flags of Pakistan, the UAE, Monaco, the EU and a universal peace flag at the North Pole on April 21, 2007 and at the South Pole on January 10, 2008. She is the first Pakistani to trek to both the North and South Poles.
Salim’s space voyage will be the second flight launched into space by Branson. The mogul himself and his family will go on the first flight. Her flight will be launched from the space port in Mojave Desert in California sometime next year. “We will be in space for a few hours and then come back,” said Salim.