Australia now has its first astronaut ready for space: Katherine Bennell-Pegg

- April 24, 2024 2 MIN READ
Katherine Bennell-Pegg
Australian Space Agency head of space tech Katherine Bennell-Pegg
While Katherine Bennell-Pegg is not there yet, she’s now at least qualified for the career she wanted more than two decades ago in high school: astronaut.

Adelaide-based Bennell-Pegg, 39, became the first qualified astronaut under the Australian flag this week after completing her training at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Centre in Germany and now qualifies for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Oceanographer Paul Scully-Power was the first Australian-born person to fly into space aboard the Challenger shuttle in 1984. Following in his footsteps was Adelaide-born Andy Thomas, who was part of four NASA space missions, including 141 days aboard the Russian space station, Mir. But they both rose above earth as US citizen

A space systems engineer who works for the Australian Space Agency as technology director, Bennell-Pegg trained in a mock up of the ISS at ASA’s Johnson Space Centre, can now stitch woulds and insert an IV drip as part of her medical training, and undertook parabolic flights to experience weightlessness, along with centrifuge training – think the Rotor at Luna Park – to deal with G-force. She also trained in space systems engineering and robotics, including operating Canadarm2 on the ISS.

The astronaut version of a HECS bill, $466,000, was picked up by the Australian government.

She’s one of five graduates of the latest astronaut program.

In 2022 NSW-raised Dr Meganne Christian was selected as part of the ESA’s astronaut class as one of 11 reservists. She was born in the UK, and would wear that flag, while also holding Australian, Italian and New Zealand citizenship.

Bennell-Pegg said that growing up, she didn’t think it was possible to represent Australia as an astronaut.

“Representing Australia is filled with opportunities to propel our nation’s science and technology forward in the global space arena and to raise the level of aspiration for the next generation,” she said.

“I hope my training and whatever comes next helps unlock the path for more Australians to become involved in human spaceflight.”s.

Australian Space Agency boss Enrico Palermo, said they’re proud that a member of the team is a potential astronaut.

“She will return to Australia a qualified astronaut brimming with knowledge, insights and connections that will help generate global opportunities for our industry,” he said.

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