Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

September 9, 2006

Phone calls from space

Filed under: Personal Spaceflight — by Peter @ 4:40 am

I’ve just departed Los Angeles this morning en route to Isle of Man (UK) to attend the Board meeting of the International Space University (ISU). Anousheh very graciously agreed to make a few special phone calls during her precious orbital downlink opportunities. One of these calls will be to the student body of the ISU. Another will go to the student body of MIT, and one more to Google employees at the Googleplex where fellow X PRIZE Board Member Larry Page will have a chance to say hello.

Speaking of phone calls, I have say that Anousheh is quite the trouper. She’s a member of the X PRIZE Foundation’s Executive Committee, which meets monthly by telephone to discuss management issues like where X PRIZE should be focusing, the status of prizes, etc. We had our monthly call scheduled for yesterday morning (Pacific time) and even while in quarantine out in Baikonur, Anousheh still joined the call, at 11 p.m. local time in Kazakhstan. I wonder if we can get her to call in from orbit? (just kidding).

I have to say that as her launch date approaches, I’m turning green with envy! Unfortunately the slip in the launch date from Sept 14th to the 18th makes it impossible for me to attend Anousheh’s launch. I’ve heard absolutely amazing stories about watching a Soyuz launch live in person. You are so close you can feel the blast of heat from the engines, not five miles away like at Kennedy Space Center.

It was my pleasure this morning to introduce Anousheh via email to NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, who will be the senior NASA representative at the Soyuz launch, and present for her landing and recovery. Congrats to Rex, NASA and the rest of the team for getting Shuttle off just in time!

-Peter (somewhere over the Atlantic en route to Isle of Man)

September 8, 2006

Anousheh Ansari, Space Explorer

Filed under: Personal Spaceflight — by Peter @ 8:31 pm

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

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