On March 20, Lt. Col. Jasmin Moghbeli, an Iranian-American astronaut leading NASA's summer 2023 mission to the International Space Station, was a featured speaker with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the first annual White House Nowruz reception. In her remarks, Moghbeli expressed pride in her Persian heritage. “Isn’t it amazing that I could say with complete honesty, as an Iranian-American woman who wasn’t even born here, that I have just as much chance as anyone else of being on the Artemis 3 mission [to the moon]?”
Moghbeli, who speaks Farsi and still celebrates Nowruz, reflected on the traditions and meaning of the Persian new year. “This year, for the first time, my daughters were able to participate as well by decorating the eggs and growing the sabzeh [wheat grass] at our Haft-Sin [Nowruz table],” she said. “Each Nowruz, we give thanks for our blessings and look ahead to the future. Even during difficult times, we hope for renewal and transformation.”
The president and first lady commended women who were fighting for fundamental freedoms in the Islamic Republic. Moghbeli, the first person of Middle Eastern descent to be admitted to a U.S. astronaut class. Her experience starkly contrasted with the struggle of Iranian women, who faced legal, political, economic and social challenges. Moghbeli was born in Germany, where her family sought refuge after Iran’s 1979 revolution. But she grew up in New York and became an American citizen in the second grade. An MIT graduate, she spent her early career as a marine in America's wars, including flying Cobra attack helicopters in Afghanistan. Moghbeli -- nicknamed “Jaws” -- joined the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. She could be one of the first astronauts destined for Mars. The following are Moghbeli's remarks at the White House reception celebrating the Persian new year.
Lt. Col. Jasmin Moghbeli
“Wow. Never as a kid standing around the Haft-Sin for the Sal Tahvil could I have imagined I would get to say these next words right here in the White House: Nowruz Eide Shoma Mobarak.
“Nowruz means 'new day.' It is the celebration of the arrival of spring and all the hope that comes with it. It is a holiday full of symbolism, with each element of the Haft-Sin — or seven S’s — being representative.
“Growing up, my brother and I took part in preparing the Haft-Sin. We would help grow the sabzeh, a symbol of rebirth and growth, which often came in the form of a chia pet in our household. The goldfish, a symbol of progress, was often one that my brother or I had won at a school fair. The ayeneh — or mirror — that we used, a symbol of self-reflection, was the same one that had been used at my parents’ wedding, would eventually be used at my wedding, and now sits at my family’s Haft-Sin table.
“And this year, for the first time, my daughters were able to participate as well by decorating the eggs and growing the sabzeh at our Haft-Sin.
“Last week, I went back to my elementary school and spent some time with the young students there. I remember when I was a student, my mom would come in each Nowruz and speak to the — my classmates about the holiday and our culture. It was at that same elementary school that my dream of someday becoming an astronaut began.
“While visiting, one of the students asked me, ‘Are you going to be the first woman to walk on the moon?’ They’re referring to NASA’s Artemis program, which just last year completed its first test flight, Artemis 1, and will soon return astronauts to the Moon, paving the way for future human missions to Mars.”
“I answered simply and honestly, ‘I don’t know. But I could be.’
“Isn’t it amazing that I could say with complete honesty, as an Iranian American woman who wasn’t even born here, that I have just as much chance as anyone else of being on the Artemis 3 mission? That I’ve even had the opportunity to become a NASA astronaut in the first place, and that later this year, my lifelong dream of launching to space will come true as I will have the honor of commanding the Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station.
“Each Nowruz, we give thanks for our blessings and look ahead to the future. Even during difficult times, we hope for renewal and transformation.
“Reflecting on this past year, I stand here so proud of my Persian heritage but also incredibly proud to be an American.
“It is now one of the greatest privileges of my life to introduce someone who celebrates the many vibrant cultures and traditions that make up our nation, someone who understands the importance of taking everyone with us as we push the boundaries of exploration that, in doing so, we benefit America, our beautiful planet, and those on it.”