Australian woman Katherine Bennell-Pegg is set to make history as she heads to Germany for astronaut training with the European Space Agency (ESA).
Katherine, Director of Space Technology at the Australian Space Agency, will be the first Australian woman to be trained as an astronaut by an international space agency.
Unlike previous instances where Australian astronauts have flown as citizens of other nations, Katherine will train as an Australian under our flag.
She will begin training in April through until mid-2024. She will remain an employee of the Australian Space Agency, where she has worked since the end of 2019.
When she completes her intensive training, Katherine will receive basic training certification, a prerequisite for assignment to missions to the International Space Station.
Katherine, as a dual United Kingdom citizen, privately applied to join the European Astronaut Corp when it was advertised in early 2021. This was the first selection process since 2009. She was one of only 25 people to complete the program, from 22,500 eligible applicants.
Katherine has more than 12 years experience as a space systems engineer. She has studied and worked across 6 countries and many projects including:
- human spaceflight missions and technologies
- the International Space Station
- debris removal concepts
- scientific, earth observation
- space exploration missions.
Katherine said this opportunity was the realisation of a childhood dream that would also benefit all Australians.
“I have 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.
“It’s been a privilege to play a part in shaping our growing space sector in Australia in recent years and I now look forward to contributing even more through this historic opportunity.
I want to use this experience to open doors for Australian scientists and engineers to utilise space for their discoveries, to inspire the pursuit of STEM careers, and show all Australians that they too can reach for the stars.”
This secondment will also further strengthen the long and prosperous relationship between Europe and Australia, particularly in scientific endeavours related to space.
Australia and ESA have had treaties in place since 1979 to enable ESA ground stations on Australian soil to track spacecraft and interplanetary missions.