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Dubai: Meet Pakistan’s first female astronaut preparing for space travel with a 17-year-old ticket – News

Namira Salim will make spaceflight history next month, making nearly two decades worth the wait.

Namira Salim. Photo: Rahul Gajjar

Published: Friday, September 29, 2023, 6:00 am

The long wait is finally over. On October 5, Namira Salim will go suborbital on a Virgin Galactic flight she purchased as one of the pioneering space tourists 17 years ago. She will become the first female resident of the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan’s first space tourist.

For Namira, the almost two decades of waiting will no longer matter, as next month she will make space flight history. His journey will not only be the realization of his lifelong dream of going and returning to the edge of space, but will also reinforce the popularization of space tourism.

Khaleej Times caught up with Namira at her Dubai residence on Thursday, a couple of days before traveling to the launch site at Spaceport America in New Mexico. She seemed relaxed and serene when she narrated the preparations and adventures she experienced before the flight. But she got excited when she shared the inspiration for her dream of reaching space.

First female resident of the United Arab Emirates and first space tourist from Pakistan.  Photo: Rahul Gajjar

First female resident of the United Arab Emirates and first space tourist from Pakistan. Photo: Rahul Gajjar

It was her late father, a former Pakistani army officer, who inspired her, and it’s only fitting that her next flight is dedicated to him. “My father was the one who first showed me the North Star. He taught me the constellations of the night sky for navigation purposes and inspired me, from a very young age, to reach for the stars,” Namira told Khaleej Times while holding a brooch that she He personally designed it in the shape of Ursa Minor or Ursa Minor.

“I grew up as a child in Pakistan looking at the night sky. And when we moved to the United Arab Emirates in the 1980s, I also spent my youth looking at the stars,” she added.

That inspired Namira to dream big and become adventurous. In 2006, she became the first UAE resident to purchase a suborbital flight ticket for Sir Richard Branson’s space company. She paid $200,000, less than half the current reported price of $450,000 for a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight. From then until now, she kept the adventurous side of her busy conquering the North and South Poles. She also became the first Asian and the first Pakistani to skydive over Mount Everest.

For her achievements, Namira was recognized as the first Pakistani astronaut by the Pakistani government in 2006, and served as Pakistan’s honorary tourism ambassador the following year. She also became a peace activist and was awarded the ‘Tamgha-e-Imtiaz’ (Medal of Excellence) by the President of Pakistan in 2011.

mission patch

mission patch

Namira is also proud to represent three countries – the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Monaco (where Namira is also a long-time resident) – for their upcoming space flights. Explaining some of the elements of the Galactic Four mission patch, Namira said the girl pointing to the stars represents her and the crescent moon represents Pakistan. The patch also symbolizes the crew working together for the betterment of humanity.

On their way up, passengers will experience up to four times the force of Earth’s gravity, known as 4G. They will then enter near-zero gravity and experience four minutes of weightlessness aboard the VSS Unity spaceplane.

It would certainly be an exhilarating experience, Namira said, promising that she will share more details when she returns to Earth after her historic journey.

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