Namira Salim – Journey to the Stars

Originally a person with ‘the’ Pakistani spirit, Namira Salim is an amazing woman with a long list of accomplishments.  She lived most of her life in the UAE and Monaco, but was born in 1975 in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. Namira is well-known for her achievement as the first Pakistani to enter the outer space.

She is the only Pakistani to have been chosen to be a member of the world’s first commercial space liner, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. This has given her the distinction of soon to become the first Pakistani to travel to space and also Pakistan’s first Astronaut. Namira was among the 100 space tourists that were shortlisted from 44 thousand applicants in 2005.

“As a child I always believed I would go to space. It’s not that I read about it one fine day and thought of signing up. I’ve always said this was in my DNA,” she told AFP by Skype from Dubai. “I must have been less than five years old and I was crying very hard. My father was trying to pacify me and I was like ‘I don’t want anything; I just want to go to space. I don’t want any toys; nothing, just send me to space.’”

Childhood dreams do come true. Namira was pressurized by her father to study, but she kept the astronaut-spirit of hers alive in herself by spending her spare time in astronomy clubs and benefitting from her location in the UAE by gazing longingly at the starry desert skies.

Her journey to the stars was never based on ambition and hope; Namira had to pay a heavy $200,000 to sign up with the Virgin Galactic in 2007.

Along with a passionate astronaut, Namira is also an artist and a peace-promoter. She said that the money she has paid is an investment in commercial industry which can benefit the upcoming researchers, satellites and tourists to go up at the fraction of the current cost.

In fact, Namira believes that space travel can actually help develop peace. “We hope one day politicians could be taken up in space, and a space shuttle like this one we’ve built with Virgin is perfect for that. We could actually have peace summits and have conflict resolution in space.”
She became the first Asian to Skydive Everest as part of the “First Everest Skydive 2008.”  Not only did a selected few dive from an altitude above Mount Everest, 29,480 feet, she also made history as the first South Asian jumper ever to skydive from the roof of the world.

Not only this, she is the first Pakistani to trek to both the North and South Poles. She hoisted the national flags of Pakistan, the UAE, Monaco, the EU and a universal peace flag at the North Pole on April 21, 2007 and at the South Pole on January 10, 2008. So many flags – proves her willingness and enthusiasm as a peace-maker!

Being a resident of Monaco, Namira was involved in diplomatic gestures between Pakistan and Monaco and in 2009 this led to diplomatic accreditation between Pakistan and Monaco. On 1st August 2011 she was allowed by Prince Albert II’s to become the First Honorary Consul of Pakistan to the Principality of Monaco.

Following this, the first Pakistani consulate was inaugurated in Monaco in March of 2012.
Namira is also the recipient of Pakistan’s highest civil award, the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, conferred to her by the President of Pakistan in 2011.

Some people argue that the long list of her achievements have no relation with Pakistan because she never really lived in the geographical areas of Pakistan, but what we believe is that no matter in what part of the world you are, if you have your roots in Pakistan, you ARE a Pakistani at heart. Namira said that she hopes all of her achievements are an inspiration for Pakistani women.
Step forward and begin your own journey to the stars.

Razzan Sehar 
Angels International College

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