Welcome Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam, and Host Sean Carroll.

My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer

It’s a great pleasure to host this Book Salon for My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer, by Anousheh Ansari with Homer Hickam. It’s an engaging read, from a unique perspective, and an enlightening story of real determination.

I wasn’t familiar with Anousheh Ansari’s story before reading this book, but I did know the name “Ansari,” from the Ansari X Prize. That was a contest that offered ten million dollars to the first private enterprise to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space. The prize money was collected in 2004, in an event that captured the attention of space enthusiasts throughout the globe. Most of the prize money was put up by Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law Amir Ansari, who are true space enthusiasts themselves.

Homer Hickam, it should be said, is not only a successful writer but one with a background in space – his memoir Rocket Boys, about growing up with amateur rocketry in a small West Virginia town, was adapted into the feature film October Sky. He later worked for NASA as an aerospace engineer. His passion, however, was always to write. He has written a dozen best-selling books, including memoirs, fiction, and non-fiction. His next book will be out in November and is a novel titled The Dinosaur Hunter.

While Anousheh’s generous contribution to the X Prize was instrumental in helping the cause of private spaceflight, her passion wasn’t really about sponsoring adventures for other people – she wanted to go into space herself. And so she did, in a story that takes up the largest part of this book. Through the company Space Adventures, she became a participant in a mission to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, marking a number of firsts along the way: the first Iranian in space, as well as the first Muslim woman. “For eight days in September of 2006, Ansari performed experiments for the European Space Agency, investigating the effects of spaceflight on human physiology, and reaching out to everyone on earth through her daily blogs and HAM radio sessions.”

For me, some of the best parts of the book were actually about Ansari’s younger years, during the journey from a humble upbringing in Iran to being a successful telecommunications entrepreneur in Texas. She grew up first under the Shah’s rule, and then during the Islamic revolution. Moving to the United States, succeeding in high school and college, and forging a family life and a thriving business practice make for compelling reading. This is a true American success story. After reading it, you are not surprised to learn that this driven woman was able to journey to the stars.