Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari made history in 2006 as the first female private space explorer and the first astronaut of Iranian descent. Today, she is the CEO of Prodea Systems, a successful tech company, and most importantly, she’s just the type of refreshing icon we need: the idealistic scientist.

If the present worldview is dominated by polarizing figures who evoke fear and dissension, the future should rely on icons that unite and inspire. And that’s where Anousheh comes in. Everything she does, be it space travel or technological innovation, is built on what she calls a “unifying platform.” Paramount to this platform is the spirit of togetherness and the use of the “language of science” to defy cultural, ethnic and political differences.

When Anousheh traveled to space in 2006, she did so by collaborating with the Russian space program, a Spanish-American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. Anousheh trained with these astronauts, and others, for six months prior to her two-day ascent and eight days aboard the International Space Station.

Just as Anousheh had pioneered private space travel, she began to pioneer technology when she, her husband and brother-in-law founded Prodea Systems in North Texas in 2006. Today, her business is still all about unity.

Anousheh’s current project is Prodea’s trademark Residential Operating System (ROS). ROS is built on the basic understanding that the best way to create future technology is to cooperate with multiple companies in the design of an effortless “internet of things.” Think of the apps we use to change the thermostat, watch the baby monitor, unlock the house. Prodea is developing a unified user interface so that all of these items are connected. Quite simply, Prodea is designing the ultimate smart life.

In regard to her status as a role model to future generations, and particularly women, she’s both humble and logical. “To be honest, we don’t have enough women going into civil science and technology. Stats show the rate is not only not increasing, but slightly decreasing. I find it disheartening and troublesome,” she says.

“I think our society needs more women in science and technology to influence how our society is shaped. We need to depend on technology growing at an exponential rate,” she adds.

Anousheh once described herself as Curious George-meets-Spock. Curious George is an optimistic character who knows no boundaries. And Spock is a relentless logician. Anousheh, in turn, is part explorer and part problem solver; part today and part tomorrow.

See all of the women in our Girl Boss 2016 feature >
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