Pakistan's first astronaut: A star is launched

Namira Salim’s quest to become Pakistan’s first astronaut has earned her plaudits.

Maha Mussadaq June 07, 2011


Namira Salim’s star is about to launch as she is set to become Pakistan’s first astronaut. Her maiden voyage will be in 2012.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Salim said this was a dream come true for her.  All her hard work and training will soon pay off. Although the date for the launch is not yet fixed, she says her team is ready.

“I got my first telescope when I was 14 years old,” says Salim.  Holding a Master’s in international affairs from Columbia University, Salim was an active member of astronomy clubs in college and university and was also the first female member of the Amateur Astronomy Society of Pakistan. Rather than being a hindrance, Salim says that her gender always gave her an edge over her male counterparts.

Salim, who divides her time between Dubai and Paris, was feted for her groundbreaking achievements by President Zardari, who awarded her the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for excellence in sports.

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, officially launched Salim as a Virgin Galactic Founder Astronaut in Dubai in March 2006. Hearing of this, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting dubbed her the first Pakistani astronaut.

She is also the First Asian to skydive from an altitude higher than the peak of Mount Everest, at 29,480 feet. Salim also hoisted the national flags of Pakistan, the UAE, Monaco, the EU and a universal peace flag at the North Pole on April 21, 2007 and at the South Pole on January 10, 2008.  She is the first Pakistani to trek to both the North and South Poles.

Salim’s space voyage will be the second flight launched into space by Branson. The mogul himself and his family will go on the first flight. Her flight will be launched from the space port in Mojave Desert in California sometime next year.  “We will be in space for a few hours and then come back,” said Salim.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.


Edwil Alberts | 10 years ago | Reply

Hi All,

Just for those that keeps on fighting on the meaning of the word "astronaut" as well as those that even use the same quote but still reading it wrong - here it is again from Wikipedia...

"An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft. While generally reserved for professional space travelers, the term is sometimes applied to anyone who travels into space, including scientists, politicians, journalists, and tourists.

Until 2002, astronauts were sponsored and trained exclusively by governments, either by the military, or by civilian space agencies. With the sub-orbital flight of the privately-funded SpaceShipOne in 2004, a new category of astronaut was created: the commercial ASTRONAUT."

For those that are jealous about this specially from countries apposing to where this young lady is from, please allow her the credit for what she wants to accomplish. Not all countries, nor all individuals will have the opportunity to be able to just get of this corrupted peace of rock that we call planet earth in the more traditional sense and not all of our governments have programs in place to supprt such activities. I have the very same dream and I personally do respect her as at least she is one step closer than accomplishing this than me. It is not about the word that describe the the act, but it is actually about the accomplishment...

Imtiaz | 10 years ago | Reply

Astronaut!? gime a brek.. she is just a space tourist. if I have money, I too wud go in space - but i cant be called an astronaut!!

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