“I was fascinated by the sheer mystery of space, what’s out there, what’s it like, and how I could get there,” says Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, who in 2006 became the first Muslim woman to go to space, using her own funds for the voyage. Though some consider Ms. Ansari a “space tourist,” she stayed aboard the ISS for eight days, conducted experiments, and even sent the first-ever blog post from the space station.
Today, she is CEO and Chairman of the tech company Prodea Systems. Her current project is set in rural India, enabling the people there to go online for the first time.
Ms. Ansari continues to be a fierce advocate for space exploration and has been involved with many private sector space initiatives. “The way we treat our planet, we’re going to destroy our environment and make it uninhabitable, unless something changes drastically,” she says. “If we want our species to survive, we need to figure out how to live in space. That’s why I think the space program is very important, not just because of all the research turning out products and ideas that help people on earth. And it’s not something we can do quickly, it will take many decades for us to figure out, so we need to start working on it now.”