x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Spacewoman shares a view of the big picture

Anousheh Ansari, the co-founder and chairwoman of the IT company Prodea Systems, is one of the backers of the X Prize for space flight competitions.

Anousheh Ansari, the chairman of Prodea Systems, floats inside the International Space Station in 2006.
Anousheh Ansari, the chairman of Prodea Systems, floats inside the International Space Station in 2006.

Anousheh Ansari, the co-founder and chairwoman of the IT company Prodea Systems, is one of the backers of the X Prize for space flight competitions. The world's first privately funded woman in space:

q How is competition among space-flight companies a good thing?

a The reason we have not made significant advancement in this arena for the past 50 years is because it has mostly been the playground for government agencies. I've seen how competition has completely changed the face of telecommunications. That competition has been missing in space. I've always believed there has to be a bigger participation from private industry.

What offers the greatest potential?

Space tourism is the first business case that we can make for space exploration. It will create traffic and with traffic you will have lots of flights so you will improve safety and you will find better, cheaper, more efficient ways of flying to space. All of that will help in reducing costs. I'm hoping that over a 10 to 15-year period, prices will come down to the tens of thousands of dollars rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars."

How do sub-orbital flight and orbital flight differ regarding human physiology?

Sub-orbital flights don't require a lot of training and preparation and do not put too much strain on the human body. So everyone could qualify to fly sub-orbital. For my orbital flights, I had to train for six months. It was rigorous, physical training and you had to be in really good mental and physical condition. They do a very thorough medical examination to make sure you are fit and ready for the journey.

What was your experience of space like?

I'm one of the lucky 580 people so far on this planet who have been able to experience space and it was incredible. You look at the technology for the Soyuz programme - it's very, very old technology but it's been working for 40 years and is very successful, with very few fatalities. It was not very comfortable and there is very little room for three people to get to the space station. But the experience of going to space, being in space, being weightless, seeing Earth from space, it's incredible. It changes the way you view life altogether … you only see the planet, and you feel part of something that is much bigger.