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Nifty Fifty – Bring a Top Scientist to your Middle or High School

Ms. Anousheh Ansari

Years Participated: Nifty Fifty 2012, X-STEM 2014
Ansari Anousheh

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Making Spaceflight History With Anousheh Ansari!

Lifting off  with the Expedition 14 mission crew on September 18, 2006, American businesswoman Anousheh Ansari made headlines around the world as the first female space explorer. In doing so, Anousheh, an engineer by training, also earned a place in history as the fourth private explorer to visit space and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.
Asked before her historic mission to the International Space Station what she hoped to achieve on her spaceflight, she said, “I hope to inspire everyone—especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men—to not give up their dreams and to pursue them.”

After  her nine-day stay on the International Space Station where she performed a host of experiments on behalf of the European Space Agency,  Anousheh, as an engineer and entrepreneur, has continued her efforts to advance technology and the commercialization of the space industry that she had begun before her flight.

In her current venture, she is co-founder and chairman of Prodea Systems, a company that is focusing on unleashing the power of the Internet to all consumers and dramatically alter and simplify their digital living experience.

Anousheh and her family in 2004 provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.

Prior to founding Prodea Systems, Anousheh served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc. The company successfully merged with Sonus Networks, Inc., in 2000.  

“Ever since childhood, I always wanted to travel in space,” says Anousheh who was born in Mashhad, Iran. She witnessed the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and in 1984 immigrated to the United States as a teenager.

Although not knowing any English upon her arrival to America, she adapted well and studied hard, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. In high school, she enjoyed and excelled in science, later going on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Computer Engineering from George Mason University, followed by a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University. She also has an honorary doctorate from the International Space University. She is currently working toward a Master’s degree in Astronomy from Swinburne University.

In addition to English and her native Persian, Anousheh is also fluent in French, and acquired a working knowledge of Russian for her spaceflight experience with the Russian crew of the Soyuz TMA-9 craft before lifting off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

While on the International Space Station, she performed such experiments as: researching the mechanisms behind anemia; studying how changes in muscles influence lower back pain, and the consequences of space radiation on Space Station crew members.  She also became the first person to publish a weblog from space.

Anousheh is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teacher’s in Space project. She has received multiple honors, including the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, the Working Woman’s National Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, and George Mason University’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

Says Anousheh: “While it was extremely exciting to realize my goal of space travel, I am now focused on sharing this experience with others as a Space Ambassador, being a good role model for young people and advancing commercial space flight. As Gandhi once said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’”

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