From the Three Poles to Breaking The Orbit: Namira Salim’s Inspiring Journey into Space

Today, HelloMonaco is excited to introduce Namira Salim, the First Astronaut from Monaco, who embarked on an extraordinary journey on Virgin Galactic’s “Galactic 04” space mission aboard VSS Unity.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, and based in Monaco since 1997, Namira Salim’s historic launch took place on October 6, 2023, marking the ninth spaceflight for the American aerospace company Virgin Galactic. Known as a “Collector of Firsts” Namira’s explorations extend beyond the boundaries of our planet. Remarkably, she was the First Pakistani and first woman from Monaco at the North Pole in 2007, at the South Pole in 2008, and even took part in a daring skydive during the historic First Everest Skydive over Mount Everest that one often calls the Third Pole. Her accomplishments include being the first person from Pakistan and Monaco to journey into space and becoming the First Female ticket holder of Virgin Galactic to break into orbit. NAMIRA’s journey, as a woman from a developing country, Pakistan, has added diversity in the female astronaut community.

Namira Salim
Namira Salim embarking on her acrobatic flight during her Spaceflight training with commander Kelly Latimer. © Virgin Galactic

HelloMonaco: Namira, congratulations on your incredible journey into space. Could you describe the most awe-inspiring moment during your Galactic 04 mission?

Namira: The view of Earth from space was expected to be the most fabulous of the views but the bonus was the beautiful half moon which lit up the black sky.

HM: Can you describe any personal or emotional moments during your space journey that left a lasting impact on you?

Namira:  When we were driving to the spaceport, the pole star was in front of us. It was like our guiding star that morning.  This was very meaningful to me because, since I was a little girl, my father showed me the pole star, and that’s how I began to dream about going to space. It’s where I found the inspiration for my jewellery line. In fact, I was even wearing a North Pole brooch from my jewellery line, featuring the astronomically accurate constellation of the Little Dipper that rises over the celestial North Pole. It was a surreal and emotional moment that brought my journey full circle, from childhood dreams to reaching for the stars in space.

Namira Salim
Namira Salim with Sir Richard Branson during a milestone event at Farnborough Air Show in 2012 where Spaceship VSS Unity was unveiled © Namira Salim

HM: Your space mission made you the first person from Pakistan to go into Space. What does this achievement mean to you?

Namira: It humbles me as I see the news in my country. It’s almost unbelievable to hear that I made it to space successfully and made history. What means the most to me is that my journey will continue to inspire women globally and my legacy will live on even after I leave this world. I deeply cherish this sentiment. And I am touched deeply by the support and prominent press I earned in Monaco. I have lived here 26 years, much longer than my own country, so Monaco is the most special country to me!

HM: As one of the few female astronauts, how has your journey been different from your male colleagues, and what advice would you give to young women aspiring to become astronauts?

Namira: I was the first female ticket holder of Virgin Galactic to go to space out of over 800 customers. That is so special and being the first from Pakistan and Monaco has inspired many women to follow in my footsteps. My only advice to all aspiring female Astronauts is to believe in their dreams and never give up on their values. Our values are our foundation and when the foundation is strong, what they build on it will reach as high as the stars!

HM: How does it feel to be the first resident of Monaco to enter space and make headlines because of your space flight?

Namira: It’s an incredibly emotional experience for me. Monaco holds a special place in my heart, and I’ve been proud to call it home since 1997. I am very grateful for all the support I got from here.

Namira Salim
Namira Salim gets ready to embark on VSS Unity to embark on the Galactic 04 mission with Virgin Galactic at Spaceport America ©Virgin Galactic

HM: Virgin Galactic’s mission is to make space more accessible. In what ways do you believe space travel can benefit humanity and our planet? 

Namira: The New Space Age or commercialization of space is already making peaceful applications of space technologies a reality on earth. There are many experiments in microgravity in space which benefit the health sector. We can use space technologies to mitigate natural disasters. We can promote STEM education for girls so they can become future scientists and Astronauts. Above all, we can take politicians to space to make peace on Earth! 

HM: What are the most significant lessons you’ve learned from this space mission? Has this experience changed your perspective on life?

Namira: To be patient and focused. I waited around 18 years and the journey was beautiful but the days surrounding my Spaceflight were quite challenging. I just focused and I was patient in simply getting the mission accomplished against all odds!

HM: Space tourism is becoming increasingly popular. What do you think the future holds for commercial space travel, and how it might impact life on Earth? 

Namira: The price will go down with time and we being the early investors have paid a higher price so that space travel can become affordable for everyone who dreams of going to space and for future generations who will move to the moon, Mars and beyond. We will understand life on other planets and that will help us understand the origins of our planet and to co-exist peacefully not only on planet earth but also on other planets!  

Namira Salim
Namira Salim in her spacesuit during the first official photo call at Spaceport America ©Virgin Galactic

HM: What role do you see private space companies like Virgin Galactic playing in the future of space exploration and tourism?

Namira: Private space companies like Virgin Galactic have a dual mission. Their primary goal is to make space travel more accessible and affordable, offer commercially viable safe flights to make space exploration a reality for many. Additionally, their efforts are dedicated to advancing peaceful applications of space science on Earth by using the same spaceflights for affordable research missions in microgravity.

HM: The last question. Can you share what’s next in your remarkable journey as an astronaut and explorer?

Namira: I do wish to continue my quest and venture farther into the stars. While it’s a bit early to reveal all the details, I promise it will be something very special!

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