Smiling spokesperson for space tourism boards ISS

With all the worry about the Space Shuttle’s return to Earth, the media here in theAA in suit States have given short shrift to the journey of Anousheh Ansari, one of the Russian space agency’s paying customers. Ansari’s beaming smile should convince anyone that visiting space has gotta be fun.

News reports have played it down, but it seems Ansari, 40, had a little spacesickness on the way up to the International Space Station. But in the videos of her arrival at the ISS today, the grin you see at right is still there. She is one happy customer!

Ansari, who made a boatload of money in the telecommunications business here in the States, was born in Iran and now lives in Texas. She’s the first Muslim woman to go to space, and has become a hero to thousands of Iranians and Muslims worldwide.
I spent some time reading up on her motivations, and have to admire her for her spunk. A fan of Star Trek, Ansari has channeled some of her fortune into the X-Prize, a competition for privately funded space ventures. She has reportedly spent another chunk, some $20 million, to buy a one-week cruise to the ISS. All paying space tourists have to train for six months, and by all reports, Ansari, an engineer by training, was a professional all the way.

Ansari is providing space exploration the kind of positive PR that NASA really needs right now. She’s downright bubbly about the promise of human spaceflight, space exploration, and the sheer adventure of it all. Too bad she’s flying for the Russians on the Soyuz vehicle. She’d make a great spokesperson for the US space program.

You can keep track of her activities on her blog from space. She writes well and very sincerely.

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