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From space and on Earth: astronauts will seek to inspire students with their stories

 
WISE, Va.  - Two International Space Station veterans, Anousheh Ansari and Leland Melvin, will co-host the live and interactive audio-video communications between local students at the University of Virginia's College at Wise and American and European astronauts orbiting 220-miles above Earth on Thursday morning, January 26, 2012, according event organizers.
 
Ansari and Melvin have unique stories to share with the region's youth as to how they overcome challenges to gain their formal education, establish their careers and, ultimately, float in zero gravity at the International Space Station. Both will talk to the thousands of students expected to gather to hear them, to talk to astronauts in orbit, and see an array of NASA space exhibits, including Moon rock, a humanoid robot, and a Mars planetary rover mock-up.
 Ansari Anousheh
Anousheh Ansari, a multi-millionaire telecommunications business entrepreneur-turned private space explorer and book author, will appear and speak as a co-host of the in-flight downlink with the space station where she visited in late 2006.
 
A native born Iranian, Ansari migrated to Virginia from Tehran when she was 16 to subsequently graduate from Virginia public schools and earn her undergraduate degree from Virginia's George Mason University. Later in life, she formed business ventures that lead her to fund the initial Ansari X-Prize to put the first private astronaut into space in 2004.
 
Her memoir, My Dream of Stars, co-written with Homer Hickam, published in 2010, tells of tells the story of her childhood in Iran and her family's exodus to America after the Islamic Revolution. After settling in Texas, Anousheh built a computer technology firm, that eventually realized a net worth of $750 million and ultimately allowed her to achieve her childhood dream of spaceflight. In her groundbreaking role as the first-ever female commercial spaceflight participant, her story became politicized and fraught with the prejudices and obstacles she had to overcome as an Iranian woman, culminating in a debate over whether she would be allowed to display both the American and Iranian flags on the sleeve of her spacesuit.
 
Leland Melvin, an astronaut and now-serving NASA AssociateMelvin Leland Administrator for Education, will co-host the in-flight downlink on the campus of the University of Virginia's College at Wise.
 
A native of Lynchburg, Melvin graduated from Virginia public schools and the University of Richmond where he played Division 1 football. He graduated from the University of Virginia following a stint as a professional football player for the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. Leaving professional football after a hamstring injury, Melvin joined NASA in 1989.
 
Working at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Melvin became one of America's astronauts in 1998 and subsequently flying to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in early 2008 and late 2009. He now is now an associate administrator of the space agency serving in Washington, D.C.