Virgin Galactic’s founding astronaut prepares for flight

Known as a space diplomat and pioneering North Pole explorer — Namira Salim finds peace in space tourism.

Salim is the first South Asian Space Tourist who will go aboard Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s first sub-orbital flight next year. Salim, Virgin Galactic’s founding astronaut, joined Yahoo Finance’s On the Move to discuss her upcoming journey, space suit fitting and the space race. 

Salim recently attended the Virgin Galactic Founder’s Forum where she was fitted into the World’s First Exclusive Spacewear System for Private Astronauts, sponsored and created by Under Armour. She said she spent two days with Virgin Galactic, which provided specific details on what to expect during the flight. 

“It was incredible because they gave us a fitness plan and a diet plan,” she explained. “The space suit just needs a little bit of tweaks. And it’s just amazing, the excitement building up and the whole plan on how it’s going to happen at the Space Port, we had a lot of discussions about that.” 

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity comes in for a landing after its suborbital test flight on December 13, 2018, in Mojave, California. - Virgin Galactic marked a major milestone on Thursday as its spaceship made it to a peak height, or apogee, of 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers), after taking off attached to an airplane from Mojave, California, then firing its rocket motors to reach new heights. (Photo by Gene Blevins / AFP) (Photo credit should read GENE BLEVINS/AFP via Getty Images)

Astronauts are usually expected to be physically fit when they go on a mission. But for Virgin Galactic’s first sub-orbital flight that’s not the case.

“These flights are not ground up. They’re very easy on the body,” said Salim, who trained for a sub-orbital space flight back in 2007 in the world’s most high-performance centrifuge. “So the spaceship would go up to 50,000 feet and detach from the mothership and go to space from there. You just have to be reasonably fit. It’s not very hard on the body or requires a lot of fitness.”

Virgin Galactic, along with other companies, have been trying to send tourists to space.

“At the moment, yes there has been competition. There’s not really a race because everyone wants to do this safely,” Salim explained. “Virgin is ahead of the game and they are going to start the operations next year.” 

Ralston Ramsay is a producer for Yahoo Finance’s On the Move. 

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