Anousheh Ansari is an amazing woman, and I am so proud that she is traveling to orbit to stay aboard the International Space Station.
I first met Anousheh while searching desperately to find a title sponsor for the X PRIZE. The competition was launched in 1996 under the St. Louis Arch, and I had searched everywhere for a company or individual visionary enough and brave enough to put up the money for the purse. I had approached hundreds of CEOs and benefactors only to be told over and over again that backing the X PRIZE was too risky, that this was a fantasy… no team would ever pull it off…
Finally in 2001 I read about Anousheh and Hamid Ansari, a couple who had just sold their company telecom technologies, inc., to Sonus Networks. The article said that Anousheh’s dream was to fly on a suborbital trip into space. I stopped and re-read that article three times. In that moment I knew that Anousheh was the person I needed to find.
To make a long story short, I met with the Ansaris just after they returned from travels to Hawaii and a few days later they agreed to become the sponsor of the X PRIZE. For this we proudly renamed the competition the Ansari X PRIZE. Since that time, Anousheh, her husband Hamid and her brother-in-law Amir have become close personal friends, board members of the X PRIZE Foundation and fellow-dreamers on how to open space.
On the other side of the equation is the company Space Adventures, Ltd., which is arranging Anousheh’s Soyuz trip. Space Adventures was founded nine years ago by myself, Mike McDowell and Eric Anderson. Most of the credit for Space Adventures’ success goes to Eric, the President and CEO, who developed the relationships with the Russian Space Agency and pioneered the first private launches to space of Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen. It was Eric who arranged for Anousheh to become the back-up Cosmonaut for the TMA-9 mission. Eric is also a Trustee of the X PRIZE Foundation.
Anousheh is going up on Soyuz as an ambassador and spokesperson for many. From my perspective she is a representative of X PRIZE and our hopes and mission of opening the space frontier… our dreams of building an industry that can unleash the resources of space for the benefit of humanity. She is also a wonderful representative of young women who aspire to math, science and entrepreneurship… a wonderful follow-on to Sally Ride and the great work she is doing with Sally Ride Science.
I’m speaking to Anousheh almost every other day. I have to admit I’m a bit jealous and can’t wait for my ride into space — either suborbital or orbital. But Anousheh has worked hard and is very deserving. She is a great ambassador for all of us and I look forward to living the experience through her eyes and voice.
-Peter H. Diamandis
Chairman/CEO, X PRIZE Foundation