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sHeroes: Namira Salim is a Space Diplomat, Future Astronaut, Pioneering Polar Explorer and Artist

I believe it’s hard to make peace in this world. I have brought a whole new world down to Earth, i.e. a world seen only from Space, where borders dissolve and only from where wars can resolve.‎ I’m bringing this awareness to world leaders and governments for them to understand that Space is also open […]


I believe it’s hard to make peace in this world. I have brought a whole new world down to Earth, i.e. a world seen only from Space, where borders dissolve and only from where wars can resolve.‎ I’m bringing this awareness to world leaders and governments for them to understand that Space is also open to them, to experience the same paradigm shift experienced by Astronauts since the birth of human spaceflight 60 years ago.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Namira Salim, a Space Diplomat, Future Astronaut, Pioneering Polar Explorer and Artist. Namira is a prominent Pakistani based in the Principality of Monaco since 1997. She is renowned as the first South Asian to go to space aboard Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic –the first private space-line of the world. Namira became the first Pakistani and first woman from Monaco and Dubai (where her parents live), at the North Pole in April 2007 and the South Pole in January 2008, as well as the first Asian to skydive (tandem) over Mount Everest (third pole) in October 2008. At all three poles, she hoisted a universal peace flag. Namira Salim’s pioneering polar expeditions have earned positive press worldwide and made her a continuous source of inspiration for women to excel in all fields of life. Based on these exemplary achievements in the area of sports, Namira was awarded a civil decoration of Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence) by the President of Pakistan in 2011. Namira holds an Ivy League Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University. Her diplomatic efforts lead to the historic accreditation between Pakistan and Monaco in February 2009. She served as the first Honourary Consul of Pakistan to the Principality of Monaco. In 1993, as a fresh graduate, Namira became the Founding President of AIESEC in Pakistan, the largest student-run NGO of the world, which promotes peace and international cooperation through corporate and cultural exchange programs. AIESEC, a French acronym for the International Association of Students in Economics and Business Management, has a consultative status with the United Nations. Namira has trained as a student pilot in 1995 and is a PADI-certified advanced scuba diver.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Namira! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a little girl growing up in Pakistan, I was born with the dream to become an astronaut. Space makes my DNA. ‎ Throughout my childhood, college and university years, I kept the dream alive by following my inner voice and my strong conviction to reach for the stars. I would stargaze every night. I would create art inspired by the night sky. As I passed my light years under the stars, we’re fortunate that in our lifetime, we have entered into a NewSpace Age or commercialisation of space which opens the final frontier to all sectors. I stumbled upon the news of the first private spaceflight of the world which made its successful maiden voyage in October 2004. Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group licensed this technology to make Space Tourism a reality for anyone who has dreamt of going to space and established Virgin Galactic, the first private spaceline of the world. I was one of the first applicants to call them before they even set up offices and joined as a Founder Astronaut in January 2006. In March 2006, Sir Richard Branson, personally introduced me to the world press as one of the earliest Founders and Future Astronauts of Virgin Galactic, a perk I have enjoyed solely out of 600 fellow Future Astronauts. Being an example of early consumer confidence, my membership as Founder Astronaut landed Virgin its biggest investor in Aabar PJS of Abu Dhabi, worth US$380 million. Subsequently, in August 2006, the Government of Pakistan officially presented me to the nation as the “First Pakistani Astronaut” becoming an instant source of inspiration for women and youth to excel in all fields. In October 2007, I qualified to go to space after completing my spaceflight training at the world´s largest centrifuge in the United States.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

My non-profit, Space Trust was launched in the Principality of Monaco in November 2015, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and in partnership with leading space agencies. It was founded on the principle of advocating Space as the New Frontier for Peace on Earth. I’m honoured that my work as Founder and Executive Chairperson of Space Trust has redefined Space Diplomacy by engaging Heads of State and Heads of Government to utilize space as a sustainable tool for peacemaking on Earth — in support of Space2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Agenda of 2030. However, what touches my heart the most is that when, at an industry event in March 2017, I first met former Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who is now Administrator Bridenstine, i.e. the NASA Administrator, he already knew who I was and my work with Space Trust. I was so humbled that the little girl growing up in Pakistan wishing to go to space with NASA was already noticed by someone as important as him!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I interview space experts and Astronauts they say I should be sending some politicians to space on a one way ticket, which is a common joke out there! However, I’m proud to confess that the way I have aligned my thought leadership of opening space to world leaders around the UN global agenda and Space Diplomacy, I’m taken very seriously!!‎

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

‎Space Trust is a thought leader in making Space the New Frontier for Peace on Earth. Our lead initiative, 0G Summit or zeroG Summit, is inspired by G Summits on Earth and international cooperation at the International Space Station for peaceful applications of space science and technology on Earth. Space Trust spearheaded an annual event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly High Level Week in New York to advocate this thought leadership. I’m privileged that, in such a short time of its existence, Space Trust has grown its influence via high-level advocacy and via engagement of all ages with its interactive events to present immersive space environments to government and the general public alike.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

2020 will mark the launch of our maiden mission to Space, called 0G Peace Mission 2020, whereby, we will launch a cube ‎satellite to Space as a capacity-building project between a developed and developing country. A university in a developing country will learn to make a cube satellite from a university in a developed country. We envision to do so in cooperation with the UN and a leading Space Agency. The CubeSat will broadcast messages of Peace in orbit in the voices of world leaders, peacemakers, civil society and youth.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Inspire, empower, motivate and delegate.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Exhibit professionalism and keep a strong work ethic under all pressures.Lead with perfection, deliver with excellence to set the benchmark and never forget to inspire.‎‎

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was inspired by the beautiful music and exotic poetry sung by two singers from my part of the world. Their names are Jagjit and Chitra Singh. Originally from India, they sang the most soul-stirring lyrics in my language, i.e. in Urdu which is the national language of Pakistan. Their genre was the “Ghazal.” But overall, charting my way through the stars is what kept me going through thick and thin.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe it’s hard to make peace in this world. I have brought a whole new world down to Earth, i.e. a world seen only from Space, where borders dissolve and only from where wars can resolve.‎ I’m bringing this awareness to world leaders and governments for them to understand that Space is also open to them, to experience the same paradigm shift experienced by Astronauts since the birth of human spaceflight 60 years ago.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Space Trust’s annual lead initiative, 0G Summit on Earth, is gearing towards the first Peace Summit in 0G Summit in Orbit in 2030. At the advent of our NewSpace Age, where the final frontier opens to all, this is the movement I have dedicated my entire life to, namely to open Space to world leaders and governments.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is not a quote but a couplet from a poem in my language, sung by the aforementioned singer, which is so relevant to me, the gist of my life and taught me a lesson. I’ll try to explain it in English:

Such was the punishment I endured, for dwelling in the skies, my friends

That I was cut off, from every relation and all ties to this Earth, my friends

‎It’s very ironic indeed!

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Steven Spielberg, ‎because my story and next film script is just up his alley! I look forward to the opportunity!

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