Anousheh, the first female space tourist

Ever since Anousheh Ansari was a young girl growing up in Iran, she had stars in her eyes…literally! On September 18, 2006, she made a childhood dream come true and paid a reported $20 million to become the world's first female space tourist.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've always dreamt of traveling to space," she says. "I would just gaze at the stars for hours and hours and wonder if there are other people like us out there."

In 1984, Anousheh and her family immigrated to America from Iran. Anousheh was just 16 years old and didn't speak English. After seven years of hard work, she graduated from college with a master's degree in electrical engineering.

Anousheh went to work for MCI, where she met her husband, Hamid. The business-savvy couple decided to pool their money together and start their own company. "We knew we would succeed … but the level of success was a little bit more than what we expected," she says.

In just seven years, Anousheh and Hamid sold their corporation for $750 million, making her one of the wealthiest businesswomen in the world. She put her money toward a life-long dream and bought a seat aboard a Russian spacecraft!
Anousheh preparing for space travel

Anousheh says the moment she blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was the happiest she's ever been in her life. In less than 15 minutes, Anousheh and the two-man crew were orbiting Earth. "We became weightless, and it was like utopia," she says.

After 48 hours in the tiny capsule, Anousheh arrived at the International Space Station. As the astronauts opened the hatch to move inside the station, Anousheh got to smell outer space for the very first time. "It smelled something like a burnt cookie," she says.

For 10 days, she lived alongside astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the space station—220 miles above Earth! In outer space, weightlessness makes simple tasks like washing your hair and brushing your teeth tricky, she says. Once she adjusted to zero gravity, Anousheh soared through the station like a pro. "Flying and floating around can be really addicting," she says.

Flying was fun, but Anousheh says the best part of her trip was the spectacular view. "When you see the Earth for what it is, you couldn't see any borders. You couldn't see any signs of wars. … It was just pure peace and beauty," she says. "You wonder, 'How could people ever do things to harm it?'"

During her trip, Anousheh says she'd see a sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes with each orbit around the Earth. She also had the privilege to see millions of beautiful stars. "It was like diamond powder over a black velvet sky," she says.
Shayna skydiving and Shayna today.

After Shayna's first jump out of an airplane, she says she was hooked. The skydiving student soon fell for her instructor, Rick, and began jumping more and more often. "Shayna was one of my best students ever," Rick says.

In October 2005, Rick took Shayna up for her 10th jump. With a camera mounted on his helmet, the couple leapt out of the plane in unison. At first, Rick says it looked like Shayna had a perfect skydive, but then, he saw her spinning out of control and start to plummet toward the ground. "I was praying to God, 'Save this girl, because I can't,'" he says.

Shayna fell 11,000 feet and slammed into the ground—face first. When Rick arrived at her side, something amazing happened…she sat up and started talking. Shayna had broken every bone in her face, lost five teeth, broke her right leg and shattered her eye sockets, but she was alive.

Looking back, Shayna says she can remember the terror she felt right before she hit the ground. "I saw everything I've ever loved, everything I've ever dreamed of doing just end," she says. "I started thinking about my family. I started thinking about my friends. I started thinking about my goals and everything that I wasn't ready to give up yet."

While recovering from her fall, Shayna also learned that she was two-weeks pregnant. Though her injuries were extensive, she and Rick now have a healthy baby boy!
Joddi and Oprah

After five difficult years of marriage, Joddi left her husband, Jason, took their 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, and moved in with her mother. In June 2005, after bringing Taylor home, Jason and Joddi got into a heated argument that took a tragic turn.

As Joddi turned to go inside her house, her estranged husband stabbed her in the chest with a four-inch hunting knife. The knife punctured her heart. "It was so fast that I couldn't even say 'stop,'" she says. "I couldn't put my arms in front of me. I couldn't do anything."

Joddi ran inside, called 911 and waited for paramedics to arrive as she lay on the floor, bleeding heavily. "I didn't feel anything," she says. "I felt very warm—just like a lot of blood rushing."

Once she was inside an ambulance, Joddi says she felt like she couldn't breathe, but stayed awake during the entire ride and during painful procedures at the hospital. "If I went to sleep, I didn't think I'd wake up," she says. "My babies kept me awake."

Dr. David Zich, professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, says the fact that Joddi survived is amazing. "Nobody would describe you as lucky because you got stabbed in the heart, and I'm very sorry that happened, but it was a miracle," he says. "You had six ways you could have died."

Joddi's husband was convicted of attempted murder and aggravated assault and is currently serving 20 years in prison.
FROM: Exclusive: Lisa Ling Takes a Rare Trip Inside North Korea
Published on October 11, 2006


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