4 mins read 08 Mar 2023

New Aussie Astronaut Announced, Heading to Germany for Training

The Australian Space Agency has announced, on International Women’s Day, Katherine Bennell-Pegg as the first Australian-born woman to represent the nation in astronaut training at the European Space Agency.

Credit: The University of Sydney.

Katherine Bennell-Pegg is set to make history, as she embarks on a journey to Germany to undertake astronaut training with the European Space Agency (ESA). The Australian-born woman will be the first from our nation to represent us in astronaut training by an international space agency. 

Ms Bennell-Pegg is an employee of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources working at the Australian Space Agency. She is a space systems engineer with over 12 years of experience in human spaceflight missions and technologies, the International Space Station, debris removal concepts, scientific, earth observation and space exploration missions. 

The secondment will commence in April this year and when it is completed in mid-2024, Ms Bennell-Pegg will receive basic training certification – a prerequisite for missions to the International Space Station. The opportunity will also 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 Bennell-Pegg's selection, which was announced on International Day of Women (2023) not only highlights her dedication but also demonstrates Australia's commitment towards furthering collaboration with Europe in relation to science - particularly within the field of exploration - by providing opportunities such as these which allow us access into international programs that can help expand existing knowledge within our own nation.

“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.”

“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,” she said. 

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic congratulated Ms Bennell-Pegg on her achievements saying “Katherine’s achievements demonstrate 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. This opportunity didn’t happen randomly. It reflects Katherine’s dedication and effort. Well done to her." 

He further acknowledged Dr Meganne Christian who was selected as a reservist astronaut for the European Space Agency only six months ago - “On International Women’s Day, we celebrate these women and the outsize role Australian-trained STEM talent is playing on the world stage – and taking us to the stars." 

Dr Christian graciously accepted the decision, even though only learning of it yesterday, stating on Twitter that Katherine’s training represents an important step forward for Australia, and wished her all the best in her training. 

Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo reinforced this sentiment saying “This opportunity will 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." 

He also highlighted that “Katherine’s secondment also further strengthens our proud history of collaboration with Europe in space, which dates back nearly 45 years." 

By inspiring future generations through her journey, Ms Bennell-Pegg says she hopes that it will encourage young Australians who are passionate about science that they too can reach for their dreams - no matter how ambitious they may be.