An Australian woman will make history as she heads to Germany for astronaut training with the European Space Agency (ESA).
CAPTION: Katherine Bennell-Pegg – Australia’s first female astronaut trainee. Image supplied.
Katherine Bennell-Pegg will be the first Australian-born woman to represent our nation in astronaut training.
As a space-systems engineer with more than 12 years’ experience, Ms Bennell-Pegg has studied and worked across six countries on human spaceflight missions and technologies, the International Space Station, debris removal concepts, scientific, earth observation and space exploration missions.
Ms Bennell-Pegg, an employee of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources working at the Australian Space Agency, will be seconded to ESA to begin training in April.
When she completes her intensive training in mid-2024, Ms Bennell-Pegg will receive basic training certification, a prerequisite for missions to the International Space Station.
Her secondment will further strengthen Australia’s relationship with Europe, including in relation to space science.
Ms Bennell-Pegg said she always dreamed of being an astronaut.
“When I was young, it was for the adventure – but after more than a decade working in space it’s now because I know the role it plays in tackling real-world problems and developing new knowledge that can benefit our society, environment and science,” she said.
“I want to use this experience to open doors for Australian scientists and engineers to use space for their discoveries, to inspire the pursuit of STEM careers, and show all Australians that they too can reach for the stars.”
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said Katherine’s achievements demonstrated a pathway to space for every kid in this country with a passion for science.
“We hope Katherine becomes an inspiration and example for others,” he said.
“This opportunity didn’t happen randomly.
“It reflects Katherine’s dedication and effort.
“Katherine’s selection for astronaut training follows closely on Dr. Meganne Christian’s selection as a reservist astronaut for the European Space Agency only six months ago.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said this opportunity would provide rare insight into human space flight and improve access for Australian scientists and engineers into space-based programs to expand existing knowledge and capability in our country.
“Katherine’s secondment also further strengthens our proud history of collaboration with Europe in space, which dates back nearly 45 years.”
Katherine Bennell-Pegg is one of 25 candidates selected for astronaut training from an application pool of 22,500 eligible applicants.
She will complete initial intensive training in May next year and, if successful, will then be in line for assignment to the International Space Station.