Katherine Bennell-Pegg is about to make history, as the first Australian astronaut to be trained by an international space agency.
Currently Director of Space Technology at the Australian Space Agency, Bennell-Pegg is a dual British-Australian citizen, and applied for the European Space Agency’s call for new astronauts in 2021.
Out of 22,500 eligible applicants, she was one of only 25 people picked to complete the astronaut training.
“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 in a statement.
“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.”
Bennell-Pegg is not only the Director of Space Technology, she has worked as a space systems engineer for more than a decade.
Although Australia has had other astronauts in the past, these have all flown as citizens of other nations. However with Bennell Pegg, the ESA has made a deal with the Australian Space Agency to allow her to train as an Australian.
This is also the first time the ESA is giving basic training to an astronaut candidate from an international partner.
“International cooperation has always been paramount for ESA and will become even more important as we venture further into space”, says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
“By training Katherine alongside European astronaut candidates at the European Astronaut Centre, we are strengthening the bonds of international partnerships and providing ESA expertise to our partners. I am very glad to see this cooperation with Australia and look forward to further strengthen our excellent relationship.”