She has already been to both polar ice-caps and skydived over Mount Everest. And now Namira Salim is set to go into space! Interview by Leena Sidat.
Namira was selected from 44,000 candidates to become a member of the Virgin Galactic Founders Club and in 2006 was introduced to the world’s media in Dubai by Sir Richard Branson himself.
Speaking to Asian Image she said was honoured to be first person from her country to go into space, “I was born believing that one day I’d go to space.
“As a child, I was drawn to the beauty of the night sky and absolutely enchanted by the stars... as if something was calling out to me.
“I think it is the strong faith I had in my inner voice - that has manifested into reality.”
“I have always been a risk taker and I believe in my convictions strongly. That is what drives me.”
I have always been a risk taker and I believe in my convictions strongly. That is what drives meNamira Salim
Flight tests will take place later this year in preparation for next year, where she and 84 other guests will be launched into space.
It is something she is looking forward too.
“I have undergone and successfully cleared my suborbital spaceflight training which entailed a complete simulation of our actual spaceflight.
“I was very delighted to have tolerated the actual G forces and to have adapted to motion sickness which I will encounter during my actual spaceflight.
“However, we are talking private spaceflight here and Virgin Galactic aims to make space travel a reality for every man, woman and child without much of health restraints.
“This will be far easier on the body and a safe and commercially viable operation. You could be 95 years old, reasonably healthy and still aim for breaking the orbit!.”
Namira is also the first Pakistani national to reach both the north pole and the South Pole as well as the first Asian to skydive (tandem) over Mount Everest.
“I jumped (tandem) from 29, 480 feet, with oxygen, just over Mount Everest. During free fall, I was descending at 158 miles/hour, but I felt as if I was totally suspended in thin air. There was no relative distance to feel the speed of the free fall.
“The expanse and beauty of the Himalayas was un-matched to any other drop-zone. We landed at the world’s highest drop zone Shangboche, at 12,350 feet –an altitude from where skydives usually begin".
Being Pakistan’s Tourism Ambassador inspired her to raise her universal Peace flag “Peace Making with Nations Souls” at the North Pole in April 2007. She was also thankful for the support her family gave her in achieving these feats.
“My family was very supportive and without them behind me, I could have never made it. If at all, the challenge was to live on ice and adapt to an environment, I was very unfamiliar with.
My family bought me my first telescope when I was 14.
“They encouraged me to attend the first conference of the first Astronomy society of Pakistan (AMASTROPAK) when I became its first female member during high school. “I regularly went for star gazing parties with my brothers and studied Astronomy and Astrophysics with my mentor, Dr. David McNaughton, the father of Astronomy in Dubai.
“They were in for a shock when Virgin made it a reality and when I insisted on signing up as the First Pakistani Astronaut!.”
“I did not realise that my potential spaceflight and adventures would generate so much press and that the story would become an inspiration for men, women and the youth alike. And truly, that is the most I get out of this. “It is also very flattering to see high profile personalities I’ve interacted with in Europe and the US to be equally admirable of my humble endeavours.”
Namira really is ready to make history and ready to reach for the stars.
She finishes by telling us, “There is a saying in my native language, “Urdu” and it goes... “There are other worlds beyond the stars” so I hope, one day I could venture further into the stars.”