Kalpana Chawla was the first female Indian to go on a NASA Space mission. In 1997, she worked in STS-87 and stayed in space for 30 days. The career of this brilliant astronaut came to an end in 2003.
Now, India's foremost rival Pakistan is getting their first female to travel space. Readers, I introduce to you Namira Salim, the first Pakistani women to go on a space mission. Virgin Galactic, a company on space tourism is sending their first flight in 2008. It is the first company in the world to work on space tourism. The company chose Namira as member of Virgin Galactic Founders Club out of forty four thousand registrants.
Namira was born and grew up in Karachi. After finishing her intermediate, she went to Hofstra University, New York, to study International Business. From there, she went to Columbia University to study International Relations. At the age of fourteen, Namira got her first telescope. At 16, she joined "Amastro Pak," the first astronomy society of Pakistan. Her interest in space continued through her university years. For the last twenty five years, Namira has been staying in Dubai. There she learned flying under David Mc Naughton, who was one of the first people to visit space. David was Namira's mentor.
According to the report published in Space.com, Virgin Galactic is a sister concern of Virgin Atlantic airways. The members of Virgin Galactic founders club will be able to convert their regular miles into space miles; but, to be eligible, the candidates must log two million miles in earth's atmosphere. According to Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic, traveling in space is very expensive. At the initial stage commercial space flights would cost $200,000 but the price will fall by time. Branson introduced Namira as the first women from Middle East and Asia to go on space travel. The first flight is actually a promotional flight. The people who are chosen for this have come from different backgrounds and they will be the good will ambassadors for the company.
Like Kalpana, Namira is not an astronaut. She does sculpture, music, poetry, art and a peace activist. Namira prefers European decorative art. Her art works has been exhibited in various international humanitarian summits at UN, UNESCO, and SAARC summit.
Both Pakistan and Indian societies are known to be male dominated societies. Women in these two countries are preferred to play the roles of ideal house wives and mothers. From India, Kalpana Chawla, and Namira Salim, from Pakistan are two brave women to come forward and shake off that image. Not only, these two women have taken the first bold steps but also they have paved the way for females of their own countries to aspire to become an astronaut.