Virgin Galactic carries first Pakistani into space

Namira Salim, also a resident of Monaco and the UAE, previously travelled to both poles and parachuted over Mount Everest

Namira Salim, who was among the first people to buy a ticket to space with Virgin Galactic, speaks with Richard Branson. Photo: Handout
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Adventurer Namira Salim became the first Pakistani to travel into space on Friday, riding aboard Virgin Galactic's fifth successful flight in five months, the US company announced.

Ms Salim, who previously travelled to both poles and has also parachuted over Mount Everest, was among the first customers to buy a ticket with billionaire Richard Branson's space company after it was founded almost two decades ago.

“I love my title, 'first Pakistani astronaut' – it's like being a very special princess of the country. Maybe nicer than being a princess,” Ms Salim told AFP back in 2012.

Virgin Galactic said Ms Salim is also a resident of the UAE and Monaco.

American Ron Rosano and Briton Trevor Beattie were also passengers on Friday's trip, called “Galactic 04”.

Beth Moses, a Virgin Galactic employee, and two pilots were also aboard.

Unlike traditional vertical launches into space, Virgin Galactic utilises a specialised, twin-fuselage aircraft to carry the passenger vessel high in the sky.

The mother ship then releases the spaceplane, which in turn engages its thrusters to soar into space at speeds approaching Mach-3.

Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness, where they are free to perform somersaults and gaze out the window at the curvature of the Earth.

The craft then glided back down, landing a little more than an hour after take-off from Spaceport in New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic competes in the “suborbital” space tourism sector with billionaire Jeff Bezos's company Blue Origin, which has already sent 31 people into space using a vertical lift-off rocket.

But since an accident in September 2022 during an unmanned flight, Blue Origin's rocket has been grounded. The investigation into the accident was closed at the end of September by the US aviation regulator, which requested the company make changes before its flights can resume.

Updated: October 06, 2023, 11:15 PM