The astronaut explains that space travel can solve the “great challenges” of the world

Anousheh Ansari is one of the few people who has been able to view the world from space, having embarked on an 11-day expedition in 2006. In doing so, she became the first female astronaut of Iranian descent and the first Muslim woman to travel into space.

Declaring the trip was “life-changing,” Ms Ansari left no doubt that the world’s problems can only be solved when there is a common purpose between nations.

Ahead of a recent trip to Scotland, Ms Ansari told The Herald: “For me it was a completely life-changing experience. I spent 11 days in space and the perspective shift you get in space is amazing. I’m a space geek so I had a lot of pictures of the earth from space and a lot of pictures of the universe.

“And I studied astronomy, so I had the knowledge that we’re a small part of a much larger universe. But being in space embodies that image in a different way, and it becomes real. It becomes tangible.

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“That realization when you look at our planet… You feel like you’ve been lied to by your geography teacher who showed you this map with all these different colors and these big black lines separating countries. None of that is out there. You can’t tell a country [from another]. This unity of our planet and its inhabitants, its biodiversity and its ecosystem becomes very tangible and visible in space.

“That realization really makes you appreciate. I’m frustrated why people can’t see this when it’s a whole planet for all of us and how fully connected we are.

“There is no way to keep problems within any limits. problems travel. We have seen how Covid has traveled and climate change. All these problems cannot be isolated because there are no borders separating us.

“These problems are global problems. They are problems that we all have to solve and unless we work together it will be very difficult to solve them.”

Ms. Ansari has the kind of resume that gets attention. With degrees in electrical and computer engineering from universities in the US and honorary doctorates from institutions such as International Space University, she is a former CEO of Prodea Systems, a leading Internet of Things company she founded in 2006.

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Today, Ms. Ansari is Executive Director of the XPRIZE Foundation, the world’s leading designer of incentive competitions aimed at solving “the great challenges facing mankind”. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council, a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador, and a member of the STEM Leadership Hall of Fame.

Ms. Ansari helps, the goal of the XPRIZE Foundation is to “open commercial space to create a new marketplace that will benefit humanity on Earth and help us to become [an] interplanetary species and be able to travel and explore space beyond the work of space agencies”.

She realized that one of the reasons she came to Scotland was to help

To expand the Foundation’s presence in Europe, Ms. Ansari said: “These major competitions are focused on driving innovation and breakthroughs to solve the grand challenges facing humanity. Our competitions are global, ranging from somewhere in between [prizes of] $10 million or $20 million up to $100 million. We’ve got a $100 million carbon extraction competition right now.

“And the reason we have these competitions is because we believe that innovation can come from anywhere in the world and from anyone. Our goal is to maximize diversity and participation from all parts of the world.”

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Ms Ansari added: “Through my visit to Scotland – and I will be returning to Europe several times this year – I hope to establish a larger presence in Europe, develop more collaborations with companies, agencies and corporates and help spread the spirit of innovation and.” bold and

bold thought that XPRIZE supports entrepreneurs, innovators and students in Scotland.”

Ms Ansari’s trip to these shores was at an invitation from GlobalScot Craig Samuel and Scottish Enterprise, the economic development agency. And it came at a pivotal time in the development of Scotland’s space industry, which is on the verge of major breakthroughs.

The space industry in Scotland

currently employs around 7,500 people, representing 18% of all UK space positions. Thanks to the success of companies like AAC Clyde Space, Spire Global and Alba Orbital, more satellites are manufactured here than in any other country in Europe.

There are also hopes that Orbex and Skyrora could launch rockets in Scotland this year. The country has the potential to host five spaceports, three with vertical launch sites (Sutherland, Shetland

and North Uist) and two horizontal ones (Prestwick and Machrihanish).

However, the ambitions do not end there. Launched in 2021, the Scottish Space Strategy aims to increase the number of people employed in the sector to 20,000 by 2030, by which time the sector is expected to contribute £4 billion a year to the Scottish economy.

Ms Ansari said: “An orbital launch is planned for this year, which would be the first ever.

“I’m particularly interested in this because Virgin Orbit, a US-based company that had a failed attempt, is a company that emerged from the first competition we created.

“I’m very interested in all the different approaches to launch systems that make it possible to launch the many satellite constellations and Earth observation satellites.

“I know that there are several companies that are involved in Earth observation and that are using the data, working with industries in Europe, in the US and elsewhere to obtain information, analyze it and provide solutions.”

Meanwhile, he commented on gender diversity in the space industry.

Ms Ansari said there is a “very large gap” between the number of male and female astronauts.

Only 10% of the astronauts who have traveled to space have been women, although Ms Ansari expects that number to shift as more women take part in suborbital flights.

“I hope more women have this life-changing experience,” she said.

“But aerospace engineering in general has one of the lowest percentages of women.

“It’s about the science and why aren’t more women involved in STEM education, which I hope to change in the future.

“I will do my part to promote it.”

questions and answers

Which countries have you most enjoyed traveling to for business or pleasure and why?
I love hiking and nature, so I enjoy any place that can offer great hiking. I know Scotland has beautiful landscapes and I hope to do some hiking there when the weather is warmer.

What was your ideal job as a child? Why was an appeal lodged?

I wanted to be an astronaut. More specifically, to be the science officer aboard a starship, much like Spock was on Starship Enterprise.
I wanted to be the one making amazing discoveries that are fascinating.

What was your biggest business breakthrough?
Receiving our first big customer order.

What was your worst moment in business?
When we had to downsize and reduce our workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was the hardest thing I had to do.

Who do you admire most and why?
Albert Einstein, for the power of his imagination and the courage to defy conventional wisdom.

What book do you read and what music do you listen to?
We Are Legion (We Are Bobs) by Dennis E. Taylor. I listen to a variety of music. My favorite singer is Sting and I took all his songs to the space station on my iPod. I love Belgian singer Stromae and listened to his 2022 album Multitude. I hope to see him in concert in Europe. The astronaut explains that space travel can solve the “great challenges” of the world

Adam Bradshaw

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