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FIRST MUSLIM WOMAN IN SPACE IS HELPING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE ONLINE

“The sky and stars were a sort of a refuge for me when I was a child in Iran so I become an astronaut,” Anousheh Ansari told the crowd at a Women’s Forum for the Economy and the Society that took place in Deauville, France from the 14th until 16th of October 2015.

On the 18th of September 2006, Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-born American was the first Muslim female private space explorer, the fourth private explorer to visit space in history and the first astronaut of Iranian descent. Anousheh Ansari is a computer scientist, a successful entrepreneur and one of the greatest examples of Muslim women around the world who had a dream and worked hard towards that dream.

Since she was a little girl, Anousheh’s biggest dream was going to space, along with becoming an astrophysicist, as she was fascinated with everything in the space and she has always wondered how to get there. In 1984, she moved with her family to the US where she did her bachelor degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, followed by a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University.

The Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sept. 18, 2006

The Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sept. 18, 2006

After she got married to Hamid Ansari, she went into the telecommunications business and in 1993 they established their first telecommunications company, Telecom Technologies. After that, Anousheh and her husband co-founded another company, which is Prodea Systems in 2006. Prodea Systems started with a simple idea, which is using technology to make every-day life easier, as Anousheh said. It is the first company to provide smooth access to the wide range of services consisting of the connected home and a unified connecting point to a truly connected digital life. Currently, Anousheh is not just the co-founder of the company, she is also the Chairman and CEO of Prodea.

Anousheh emphasized that Prodea is working towards helping the society to bring more people online and create an easy internet access. Currently, the company is collaborating with ChangeLabs, ILFS India and the state government of Rajasthan, a rural area in India, to build a program that will enable people in the area to go online. People in such areas do not have the devices to access the internet and many of them do not even know what is it. Therefore, the company has done some research in Rajasthan and found out that most of the people there have TVs. The idea Prodea came with is to provide devices that enable to use the TV as a two-way communication screen with internet access, and only by using the TV remote. The device allow the users to view available services and information such as government benefits and advice about agriculture and entrepreneurship.

When Anousheh fulfilled her dream in 2006 by being a private space explorer on a Soyuz TMA-9 flight to the International Space Station ISS, she conducted some experiments herself and even sent the first-ever blog post from the station. She stated her experience in few words to Tech in Asia saying:

“It’s very liberating. You become humbled by the fact that the universe is so big and you’re such a small part of it. At the same time you are empowered by seeing how small everything is because then you’re like, ‘These are the things I’m worried about? They’re nothing.’ It helps you re-prioritize your life, your relationship with the world and the people around you, with your environment, and makes you realize what’s important and what’s not.”

After her experience, Anousheh and her family was involved with many private sector initiatives. The most important one was the multi-million dollar donation Ansari’s family made to X prize, the non-profit organization that runs competitions for innovations to benefit humanity.

Anousheh always believe in Gandhi saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”. She has inspired many women around the world specially the once from her country who has some limitation to what they want to be. She said to Tech in Asia:

“I look at my life, and even though I’ve always thought about going to space, I had to consider other options and build a career in something completely different. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll forget what you want to do, even if you have to take a detour. I know women sometimes start believing they’re not meant to do something, especially when there are cultural or family restrictions where they live, so they put that limitation on themselves. Even if the opportunity comes, they don’t see it, they’ve forgotten about it. So it’s important not to forget, to always be prepared”.

If you want to be inspired by such an amazing story, then go to Anousheh Ansari’s website and read her successful inspirational story.