Almaty, Sept 18, IRNA-The world's first female space tourist, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari, started her journey to space Monday morning onboard the Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft from Baikonur space center in southwestern Kazakhstan.
Ansari, 39, is a US-based Iranian telecommunications entrepreneur, who has always dreamed of seeing the earth from space.
She is accompanied by American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin who, unlike Anousheh, will stay for some time at the International Space Station (ISS).
Ansari is to return within 10 days with two other astronauts whose six-month mission in the ISS are about to end.
Anousheh's visit to space is given greater significance by the fact that she is the first Muslim Iranian-born female tourist to make the trip.
Ansari was scheduled to join a later Soyuz mission but her dream of flying to space came true a bit earlier when last month it was announced that the journey to orbit of a Japanese businessman, Daisuke Enomoto, was postponed due to medical reasons.
"I think my flight has become a sort of ray of hope for young Iranians," Anousheh had said earlier, stressing that she wanted to be an example to millions of women and girls whose "impossible" dreams have become possible.
She told a news conference in Star City, a Russian military facility northeast of Moscow, on Wednesday that she had always known that space harbored many secrets and wanted to sort them out.
Russian specialists said that Ansari could not be called just a space tourist.
"She has a big scientific program in orbit," the head of the space rocket Energia, Nikolai Sevastyanov, stressed.
The Russian Cosmonaut Training Center's first deputy chief, Valery Korzun, told Itar-Tass that Ansari, the first female space non-professional, had an "education that fully corresponds to space flights."
Ansari has a serious research program which she intends to implement during her 10-day space mission.
She said she would carry out in space a number of the European space agency's studies in medicine, microbiology and other areas.
She will also take with her "teaching materials" for instruction from space.
she says the main goal of her mission is to popularize space research.
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