“Commercialization of Space opens space to all sectors. So, in today’s world, reaching for the stars is anyone’s dream come true,” says Namira Salim.
Born to a Pakistani family in Karachi, Namira Salim knew from a young age she wanted to be an astronaut, saying “space makes my DNA”. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Salim kept her dream alive by becoming the first female member of the astronomy society of Pakistan, and creating art inspired by the night sky under her company, A Soul Affair, which she founded in 1997.
It was in 2005 that her dreams started to become reality, when she first learned of Sir Richard Branson’s spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space liner. In 2006 Salim joined the company as a founding member and as the only Pakistani, and was launched to the world press by Branson personally. While her family was difficult to convince at first, since the Government of Pakistan officially declared Salim the ‘First Pakistani Astronaut’ – one of her proudest achievements – in August 2006, her family has been supportive of her dream.
As part of her journey with Virgin Galactic, Salim trained and qualified for the suborbital spaceflight under Virgin Galactic’s supervision at the NASTAR Center in the US.
Salim then spent two years conquering the North and South Poles, and the Mount Everest, becoming the first Pakistani to accomplish such a feat, and became the first Asian ever to skydive over the world’s highest peak during the historic first Everest Skydive.
In 2011 Salim was involved in setting up the first Pakistani consulate, and became the First Honorary Consul of Pakistan to the Principality of Monaco. The consulate was inaugurated in Monaco in March 2012. Later in that year Salim was awarded the Medal of Excellence by the President of Pakistan, and was the winner of the Pakistan Powerful 100 Award as well as the Pakistani Woman Power 100 Award.
Three years later, Salim founded Space Trust, a non-profit initiative that promotes space as the new frontier for peace and seeks to find innovative solutions for a more peaceful world. She says, “Space Trust will honor the peace, beauty and preciousness of space. It will focus on the ‘Overview Effect’, which is a borderless view of Earth from space, as a timeless asset for making peace and building trust beyond manmade borders. Space Trust will inspire change, encourage dialogue and enrich education.”
Salim is also a contributing author to the book Commercialisation of Space, Opportunities and Challenges, edited by Bhupendra Jasani and Ram Jaku, which was published in 2014. The book was a collaborative effort between the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University and Department of War Studies at King’s College London.
Now living in Southern France, and splitting her time between Monaco and Dubai, Salim continues to create art and has conducted several exhibits thus far. She is also currently writing a book about her personal story.