Watch: Dubai-based Pakistani national flies to space, makes history

She was recognised as the first Pakistani astronaut by the government of Pakistan in 2006

by

Angel Tesorero

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Photo: @virgingalactic/X
Photo: @virgingalactic/X

Published: Fri 6 Oct 2023, 9:04 PM

Last updated: Sun 8 Oct 2023, 7:12 PM

Long-time UAE resident and Pakistani national Namira Salim has made history as the first Pakistani woman who flew to space as part of Virgin Galactic 04 on Friday.

Carrying Salim and two other space tourists, Virgin Galactic tweeted after a successful one-hour flight: Welcome back to Earth, #Galactic04! Our pilots, crew and spaceship have landed safely at Spaceport America, New Mexico.

Salim, who is also known as Virgin Galactic Astronaut 019, was aboard Virgin Galactic's reusable space plane, VSS Unity, that was launched to space by carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, at 7.40pm (UAE time) from Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Salim was joined by Ron Rosano (Virgin Galactic Astronaut 017), who is another space tourist and astronomy educator from Muir Beach, California; and British national Trevor Beattie (Virgin Galactic Astronaut 018), an advertising executive and founding partner, chairman and creative director of Beattie McGuinness.

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The trio was led by mission commander Kelly Latimer and pilot C.J. Sturckow aboard VSS Unity while Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses joined them in the cabin. VMS Eve, meanwhile, was piloted by Commander Nicola Pecile and Pilot Jameel Janjua

State of weightlessness

Salim and the two other space tourists experienced up to four times the force of the Earth's gravity, known as 4G. They entered almost zero gravity, including four minutes of weightlessness aboard the spaceplane VSS Unity.

It has been a life-long goal for Namira, who had to wait for almost two decades to go to space. It all started back in 2006, when she became the first UAE resident to purchase a suborbital flight ticket from Sir Richard Branson's space venture. She paid $200,000, which was less than half the reported current price of $450,000 for a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight.

Namira is multiple achiever. She was recognised as the first Pakistani astronaut by the government of Pakistan in 2006, and she served as honourary ambassador of tourism for Pakistan the following year. She also became a peace activist and was conferred with 'Tamgha-e-Imtiaz' (Medal of Excellence) in 2011 by the President of Pakistan.

Namira also holds great pride in representing three countries – the UAE, Pakistan and Monaco (where she is also a long-time resident) – for her space flight.

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