Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

Letter from NASA Watch

to Ground Ops

I have made several postings on NASA Watch with regard to claims that Anousheh Ansari was the first person to “blog” in space. Having been a blogger of sorts for more than a decade (I was doing it before there was a word for it) the term has come to mean the end-to-end process of running a blog website – not only writing the posts but actually operating the blog management software i.e. editing, posting replies to comments, etc. Being on the ISS more or less limits her to sending emails back to Earth – hence my quibbling with the use of the term.

Websites can have a global impact. I learned that early on. My first hint came in 1995 when the original NASA Watch webserver was in the small condo my wife and I owned. During the first shuttle mission I covered I awoke one night around 3 a.m. to hear the hard drive on the webserver making a lot of noise. It was busy. But why so early? Then it dawned on me: Europe was waking up. Throughout that day – and into the night – I listened to that noisy hard drive. I could almost imagine an entire planet with continents moving in and out of sunlight – with people starting and ending their day by checking my website. My worldview was never the same after that.

As such, definitions aside, let me be very, very clear about the sheer impact of Anousheh’s blog postings. Despite where you may fall on the claim as to whether she is “blogging” or not, I do feel that she has broken totally new territory – in an expansive, profound, global fashion. In so doing, she has inspired people previously untouched – or uninspired – by the sheer excitement and promise of space exploration. She fancies herself as a space ambassador. Early on I expressed some issues with that term. I hereby withdraw those comments.

But this is just the beginning of Anousheh’s journey. The real journey begins when she returns to Earth and how she takes the excitement of the moment and transforms it into long-term change – for the better. Prior to her flight, Anousheh had already demonstrated her abundant dedication via sponsorship of the X Prize and other activities. I have no doubt whatsoever that she will continue to make substantial financial – and personal – contributions to the cause of promoting space exploration long after she has returned to our planet.

Safe travels, Anousheh

Keith Cowing, Editor and


  1. Its nice to see at least one writer step back from what I see as ‘elitist snobbery’ concerning her voyage. She’s been looked down as a ‘tourist’ or ‘traveller’. She trained and qualified for spaceflight and that makes her an astronaut. And in that role she is inspiring many people whom the ‘real’ astronauts do not reach. And I expect we will hear more from her and her family upon her return that will help the cause of commercial space exploration.

    Comment by RJL — September 27, 2006 @ 2:09 am

  2. […] Letter from NASA Watch, Anousheh Ansari Space Blog“But this is just the beginning of Anousheh’s journey. The real journey begins when she returns to Earth and how she takes the excitement of the moment and transforms it into long-term change – for the better.”Anousheh Ansari, a Woman of Mass Instruction, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef“Ms. Ansari is a Woman of Mass Instruction (WMI) in the global contest of ideas. While so many pillory the United States these days and the west in general for being in decline, decadent, yada, yada, yada, Ms. Ansari’s exploits explode these myths. Would she have this opportunity if she grew up in any middle eastern country? How about South America?” […]

    Pingback by Space Travel Blog » Blog Archive » Space Tourist Update — September 27, 2006 @ 4:27 am

  3. “Elitist snobbery” – from me? Not likely. Go back and read what I have actually written. My issues were with the promotional hype that was overlaid upon her trip – not with the core value thereof. I have no problem with the term “tourist”. I’d happily fly in space as a “tourist” 😉

    Anousheh Ansari bought a ticket to an exciting location – and had to prepare for the trip. People who tour remote peaks in national parks have to do the same. Big deal. While at her rather unique destination she sought to come up with ways to share the experience with as many people as she could. Call it “adventure travel” if you wish.

    I have spent two, one-month stints on Devon Island – less than 800 miles from the North Pole – both self financed – where my small company has donated research facilities for various space agencies to use. I had real work to do. I also did sightseeing. Sound familiar? Anousheh’s ticket price helps keep the Russian space program going. With regard to resources, Anousheh simply has more zeroes to work with in this regard than I do.

    All explorers are part tourist – such is one of the core reasons to go places – especially ones that are hard to reach. There are cool things to see. We all want to see what is over the next hill. Some people get to do that via government sponsorship. Others get to pay their own way as “tourists”. All experience the same thrills – and face the same dangers.

    Whether someone is a government-funded explorer or self-financed tourist does not diminish the value of their observations or the impact that these observations can have on others.

    Comment by Keith Cowing — September 27, 2006 @ 5:23 am

  4. I prefer the term ‘amateur astronaut’.

    She’s had exactly the same 18 months of training as the Ulf Merbold and Leopold Eyharts would have had sitting in that third seat, the only difference is that she didn’t get paid for the privilege.

    Comment by Chris Mann — September 27, 2006 @ 9:00 am

  5. We have cosmonauts, astronauts, taikonauts…how do you say it in Iranian?

    Comment by Dave Hromanik — September 27, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

  6. In persian we call it Faza Navard.(Astronaut)

    Comment by kei.kavos — September 27, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

  7. Here’s a brief quote from the NASA Astronaut biography home page: “The term “astronaut” derives from the Greek words meaning “space sailor,” and refers to all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond. Since the inception of NASA’s human space flight program, we have also maintained the term “astronaut” as the title for those selected to join the NASA corps of astronauts who make “space sailing” their career profession. The term “cosmonaut” refers to those space sailors who are members of the Russian space program.

    The crew of each launched spacecraft is made up of astronauts or cosmonauts drawn from the various categories described in these pages. The crew assignments and duties of commander, pilot, Space Shuttle mission specialist, or International Space Station flight engineer are drawn from the NASA professional career astronauts. A special category of astronauts typically titled “payload specialist” refers to individuals selected and trained by commercial or research organizations for flights of a specific payload on a space flight mission. At the present time, these payload specialists may be cosmonauts or astronauts designated by the international partners, individuals selected by the research community, or a company or consortia flying a commercial payload aboard the spacecraft.”

    This was written before the adoption of the “new” category of “space sailors” known as “Spaceflight Participants” of which Anousheh is an example, but it is clear that the category would also be considered an “astronaut.”

    By definition, Anousheh Ansari is an ‘astronaut,’ even though she may not hold the “job title” of “Astronaut” or “Cosmonaut” as a profession. But she is clearly “sailing among the stars,” in the sense meant when the term astronaut–or cosmonaut–were derived.

    Comment by Jeff B — September 27, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

  8. It is interesting to read the discourse on what those who pay for passage into space, the “final frontier” should be called.
    Radio amateurs, of which I am one, are responsible for much of the developments in technology since radio became available to everyone.
    Likewise, there was a name given to those who paid for passage aboard ships to explore, and eventually colonize, the North American continent:
    Thank you, Kei Kavos, for adding Faza Navard to the list.
    Someday every nation, every language, will have added to the list.

    Comment by Dave Hromanik — September 28, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  9. What ever happened to the two “standards” for whether one is or is not an “astronaut”: the United States Air Force standard of flight to 50 statute miles altitude (80 km) and the International Aeronautical Federation standard of flight to 62 statute miles (100 km). Hence, Astronaut Neil Armstrong won his “astronaut” wings in the X-15 before he was even accepted into the NASA, manned spaceflight program and first orbited in the aborted Gemini 8 mission. You either are or you are not, depending simply upon whether you have or have not climbed to the requisite standard. ISS exceeds either.

    Comment by D. Savage — September 28, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

  10. Just a few last words before closing comments here —

    It is a blog.

    She did blog from space.

    It is Anousheh’s blog — Space Blog wouldn’t be here without her!

    And we believe she’s earned the title Space Ambassador (to the World).

    Nice to know the term Faza Navard — and here’s hoping for the word in many more languages!

    Thanks for joining in the conversation ~

    Ground Ops

    Comment by X PRIZE — October 2, 2006 @ 3:41 am

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