The astronaut describes what her space flight meant for Middle Eastern women and why she is proud of female protesters in her native Iran.
Question: What message do you hope your space flight will send to Middle Eastern women, and to Middle Eastern men?
Anousheh Ansari: Actually I think space travel is a dream for many men and women. I think my trip will be perceived differently by different genders because for women, a lot of time, not only space travel, it’s not accessible to everyone, but is even less accessible to women, there are a lot more barriers for them especially if they live in countries where things like space travel, engineering, any science and technology-related field would be considered a more male-dominated, male-appropriate field. And so I want to show them that there is nothing preventing woman, or making them less qualified to be involved in any of these fields. But equally, I think men also get very interested because, as I said, that space is not accessible today to many people and one of my goals as my involvement through Ansari X Prize was to create opportunity for everyone equally, men and women.
Question: What role do women’s rights play in the ongoing public protests in Iran?
Anousheh Ansari: I would say that women’s rights are definitely a key issue because you also see women actually in a way being very, very active in this movement. It has been an issue over the past years, and the situation sort of fluctuates sometimes it gets a little bit easier and then it gets harder again, and overall, I think women in Iran are very resilient and I am very proud of all the Iranian women that are standing up for their rights and speaking out, and I hope that they will succeed and I am glad the international community is paying attention and supporting them as well.