First Female Space Tourist Aboard Space Station

November 19, 2008, 8:49 AM

Sept. 20, 2006 — -- A grinning Anousheh Ansari -- the world's first paying female space tourist -- could scarcely contain her elation when she arrived on the International Space Station today after a two-day trip into space.

Ansari's Russian Soyuz "taxi" docked with the space station this morning while the nearby space shuttle crew used the shuttle's robot arm to search for damage on Atlantis, whose return to Earth was delayed until at earliest Thursday.

The Iranian-born American telecommunications entrepreneur was wearing a lime-green shirt embroidered with her name and a baseball cap, and she certainly received a warm welcome from astronaut Jeff William, cosmonaut Panel Vinogradov, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter.

Ansari, who spent $20 million for her trip, said she was happy to be in space. She looked just a little bit overwhelmed by the whole experience.

Ansari immigrated to the United States from Iran with her family when she was a teenager. She earned degrees in engineering, and eventually founded her own telecommunications company in Dallas, which she and her husband sold for millions.

Her passion for space spurred her to donate $10 million for the X Prize, which backed the SpaceShipOne flights in the Mojave Desert in 2002.

Ansari's chance to fly on the Soyuz came when the Russian Space Program pulled Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto from the flight for medical reasons.

Ansari is a petite, very striking woman. She told ABC's Bill Weir on "Good Morning America" that she was most looking forward to one sight.

"I'll be able to see … Earth for the first time as a very bright blue, glowing in the dark background of the sky," she said.

Now is her chance, she has nine days to view Earth from the space station's windows.

Ansari has something in common with two of the three women who have already flown into space this summer.

Lisa Nowak was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery STS 121 mission, and she made sure chocolate was on the menu when she flew.

Spacewalker Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, who is on STS 115 that is scheduled to land later this week, also wanted chocolate.

Ansari said to ABC News that she didn't care what was on the menu on the International Space Station as long as there was one thing -- chocolate.

The Soyuz that launched this morning kicks off the Expedition 14 phase of the International Space Station.

Ansari's crew mates are astronaut Miguel Lopez-Alegria and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.

The third member of Expedition 14 is astronaut Sumita Williams, who will be joining the crew when she flies up as a member of Discovery's next flight, STS 116, this December.

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