An Interview w Namira Salim - the first Pakistani astronaut

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15 Oct, 2008

Namira Salim is poised to become the first Pakistani astronaut, having successfully completed her space flight training at a facility in the US ahead of blasting off into space in the world's first commercial space liner in 2009.

Salim, 35, made her name as a sculptor, musician, designer and poet before she was chosen in March 2006 by entrepreneur Richard Branson from among 44,000 candidates to be one of the first 100 space tourists for flights to be offered by his firm Virgin Galactic.

She was trained in the STS-400 simulator, the worlds most advanced high performance centrifuge, under the supervision of Virgin Galactic after clearing medical tests.

The training assessed Salim's ability to tolerate and adapt to gravitational forces and motion sickness during a sub-orbital spaceflight.

Born in Karachi, she was never trained as an astronaut. Instead, she made her name as a sculptor, musician, poet, astrologer, peace activist and humanist. The only sister of twin brothers, who run their fathers business of heavy construction industry in Dubai also learnt flying as well as scuba diving.

It was on March 29, 2006, when this shy Pakistani woman made global headlines. Of all the people, the worlds most versatile and adventurous entrepreneur, Richard Branson, introduced Namira to the world as the first woman from the Middle East and Asia to fly into space on a commercial spaceship.

Pakistans new celebrity was also the first from her region to be a member of the exclusive Virgin Galactic Founders Club the first 100 space travelers to sign up in full to a flight on Virgin Galactic, when commercial operations commence in 2008-9.

Unlike many of her ilk, Namira does not carry a chip on her shoulder. She would return your call if she is unable to attend it for any reason. She has no personal secretaries, no complexes and no swollen egos.

She always wanted to do something different. This year her dream and, for sure, that of millions of her compatriots is about to come true, when she flies into orbit.