WASHINGTON: Namira Salim is set to become the first Pakistani to reach the final frontier as she blasts off on a Virgin Galactic space plane today (Friday).
“Proud to fly the national flag high in space Insha’Allah on October 6,” she said on social media ahead of her departure alongside three other space travellers.
The other two passengers are British advertising executive Trevor Beattie and American astronomy educator Ron Rosano. Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, will also join the trio.
Virgin Galactic announced on Tuesday that it has delayed its next space tourism mission by a day, to Friday, October 6.
“The slip will give our team an additional day to complete vehicle prep and checks,” they wrote on their X account. “We look forward to taking to the skies (on Friday)!”
The upcoming mission, called Galactic 04, will see three paying customers sent into suborbital space and back on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane.
Pakistani-Canadian man to pilot ship carrying Virgin Galactic space plane
The suborbital trajectory will allow passengers several minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth. Though it doesn’t reach orbit, Unity will be high enough that passengers will be able to see the curvature of Earth against the backdrop of outer space.
Unity will lift off beneath the wings of its carrier plane, Virgin Mothership (VMS) Eve, from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Galactic 04 will be Virgin’s fourth commercial spaceflight endeavour, following similar flights in June, August, and September of this year.
In addition to Ms Salim, VMS Eve is also piloted by a Canadian of Pakistani origin, Jameel Janjua. He had completed over 4,000 flying hours in more than 45 different vehicles before he joined Virgin Galactic.
Kelly Latimer and C.J. Sturckow will fly the space plane while Nicola Pecile will join Mr Janjua to pilot Eve. Both vehicles will land back at Spaceport America after completing the mission.
In a tweet posted on her official X (formerly Twitter) account, Ms Salim thanked Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar for congratulating her for being the first woman from Pakistan to go to space.
“By proving their mettle as trailblazers in multiple fields, Pakistani women are making the whole nation proud,” Mr Kakar had written on his X account, wishing her luck.
Ms Salim, who makes history as the first Pakistani to reach space, was one of the first 100 people to buy a ticket with Virgin Galactic, having booked her ride in 2006. Back then, the price was $200,000; it has since risen to $450,000.
Namira, the founder and chairperson of the nonprofit Space Trust, is a longtime adventurer. According to her website, she’s the first Pakistani to visit both the North Pole (in April 2007) and the South Pole (in January 2008).
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2023