A & S Interview: Anousheh Ansari
The X-Prize sponsor and space tourist talks about trips to orbit, past and future.
- By Bettina H. Chavanne
- AirSpaceMag.com, September 01, 2007
(Page 2 of 5)
NASA could, and should, generate more programs for average people, people who may not know anything about space. Instead of trying to be technical, NASA could talk about research. They never talk about research on the space station. What are they doing up there? What are the experiments? What are the results and potential uses? Sometimes I think the Discovery Channel does more for NASA.
A&S: What do you think will be the most long-lasting legacy of your space flight?
Ansari: That’s a hard question. I would like to think my legacy is bringing people together. I have shared my experience with lots of people, trying to communicate and convey the image of earth from space. The peace and tranquility you can observe from up there—we’re just all people living on this planet. It’s not Americans versus Chinese versus Indians versus whomever. Up there, none of that matters, because you can see how everything is connected.
I hate to say it, but I don’t have much hope in adults. I concentrate lots of my time to show that [peaceful image of the world] to children because they have open minds about things.
A&S: You mentioned once that you dream of space becoming a viable vacation option for families. In your mind, what would have to happen to the space industry to make that a reality?
Ansari: I think private industries have to play a big part in it, but definitely lots of technology has to be developed with help from the government. By far, [the government has] the greatest base of knowledge. It would require breakthrough technology. Private industry has the power and capital to take things the government has dreamed up and get it to a point of feasibility, and optimize it for cost savings. Private industry can do volume production and volume use to bring the cost down. It will have to be a partnership. Flights [to space] and the environment you live in have to be very safe and comfortable.
A&S: If you were designing a space station just for sightseers and vacationers, what would you want in it?
Ansari: I would definitely have a lot of windows. That’s very challenging because of exposure to radiation. If we can find shielding to protect people inside, I would definitely have tons of windows. The best part of being in space is the view.
I would absolutely want to have a regular shower. [“Showering” on the space station consists of wiping yourself daily with various cleansing cloths.]
I would come up with toys or experiments for people. For example, kids do experiments in school like mixing oil and water. They could try the same experiments in space and get totally different results. Balls and toys and gyros behave so differently in zero gravity. I would provide tools so people can experiment with a microgravity environment.
Just being able to float around is wonderful too. So I would provide floating spaces. The first time you’re in zero-G and try to move forward, you try to swim forward. Even though [the other astronauts] told me it doesn’t work, I automatically, subconsciously, started doing strokes like I was swimming, but I didn’t go anywhere. Everything is different in space—how you eat, how you move, how you use things. You can’t sit down because you float off the chair.