Anousheh Ansari Who Breaks Stereotypes

Born in Iran, she is a successful technology entrepreneur and the first female cosmic tourist

Anousheh Ansari Who Breaks Stereotypes

Снимка: NASA

340 ~ 4 мин. четене
Автор: Aleksandar Aleksandrov

The Islamic Republic of Iran can be called anything but a liberal society for women. Guided by the Ayatollahs according to the patriarchal order of Islam, the country does not leave many opportunities to women, giving them the role of wives, mothers and housewives. However, hundreds of Iranians resist this tradition and look for opportunities for further education, development in the fields of science, entrepreneurship, or simply for a more fulfilling social life. And one of them managed to break all stereotypes by successfully completing her education in technology in the United States, founding a successful telecommunication company, selling it for USD 550 million, and even becoming the first female cosmic tourist and the first Islamic astronaut in general.

Meet Anousheh Ansari. Born in the second largest Iranian city, Mashhad, Anousheh moved with her family to the United States as a child, where she quickly began to impress others with her innate intelligence and knowledge. She graduated in Computer Science and Electronics from the George Mason University and got a Master's degree at the George Washington University.

Business Successes

Soon after completing her education and gaining some experience in companies like MCI, she created the technology startup of Telecom Technologies together with her husband Hamid Ansari. The company, where Anousheh Ansari held the position of CEO, offered various telecommunication services to businesses, including VoIP systems, video conferencing solutions, telephone exchanges and ISDN services. In 2000, eight years after its incorporation, it was sold to Sonus Networks for the impressive amount of USD 550 million, and Anousheh Ansari turned into a bright example of a woman who was a successful technology entrepreneur.

Later, she also founded another technology company, Prodea Systems, which offers solutions in innovative areas, such as the Internet of Things, e-health, smart homes, and more. At present, the businesswoman is the CEO and president of the company. Prodea Systems also partners with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, as well as the Space Adventures company in the field of space research and development of private space flights. What is more, their joint initiative dates back to 2006, long before cosmic entrepreneurship became a hot sector, thanks to names such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

A Walk to the International Space Station

Although she does not like this definition, Anousheh Ansari recorded her name in history as the first cosmic tourist woman and the first Islamic astronaut in general. She flew into the Earth’s orbit in September 2006 on board of the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-9. The craft was successfully docked to the International Space Station and the Iranian entrepreneur spent eight days in the orbital complex and took part in a number of scientific experiments. She dedicated her historic flight to the young people and women, especially those in the Middle East who do not get the same opportunities as men, and urged them to follow their dreams. Her message reached her compatriots and it actually became  leading news on the Iranian television and in newspapers. The local astronomical journal NOJUM even organized events for celebrating the passage of the space station over Iran with their celebrity compatriot on board.

Remaining true to her technological habits, Ansari also made the first blog posting from space on her website, which describes everything - from the trip to the Baikonur spaceport, through the preparation for the flight, to her experience in the Earth’s orbit.

Support for Space Entrepreneurship

Ansari also gave her name to the first competition for creating a private spacecraft - Ansari X Prize, created by Peter Diamandis and his XPrize Foundation. The Iranian entrepreneur actually “saved” the competition by providing funds for the prize of USD 10 million. It was won by the SpaceShipOne spacecraft, created by Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen. Their craft was launched on 4th October 2004 and brought the team the promised USD 10 million. However, the competition had a much greater impact on the development of private space flights, and according to its organizers, it led to investments in space technology of more than USD 100 million. Many of the participating teams have continued their successful development in this sector to this day.

Anousheh Ansari was elected Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst&Young and was included in the Fortune’s 40 under 40 list. She is also the winner of the Space Pioneer Award of the US Nation Space Society, as well as the Working Woman entrepreneurship award. She is a regular guest on space-based broadcasts where she presents her vision of the future of private space entrepreneurship. But she also does not forget the earthly problems, she supports actively several non-governmental organizations and social initiatives in the US and Iran, including for child protection and support for Iranian women. The once ordinary girl who grew up on the Iranian streets, today, can boast that she is among the few people who have seen the Earth from above, but she does not forget her background and continues to inspire her compatriots to follow their dreams.