In high school, Katherine Bennell-Pegg was asked to write down three careers she aspired to pursue. She only wrote down one response – astronaut.

After 13 months of training with the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany Katherine has graduated with five other peers as astronauts. 

This makes Katherine eligible for future missions to the International Space Station (ISS). It also makes her the first qualified astronaut under the Australian flag. 

“When I dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child, I never thought it possible to do so representing Australia. It's an honour to be graduating as an astronaut with the Australian flag on my shoulder,” reflects Katherine.

Person's headshot in an astronaut uniform

Highlights of Katherine’s astronaut training included:

  • Parabolic flights, experiencing weightlessness and operating experiments in low-gravity. 
  • Centrifuge training, to learn how to deal with the intense G-force of space flights.
  • Survival training, including sea, fire, water and winter.
  • Medical training, including stitching wounds and starting an IV.
  • Space systems engineering and robotics, including operating Canadarm2 on the ISS. 
  • Scientific experiments, including biotech and medical science. 
  • Training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, including time in the ISS mock-up.

Inspiring the next generation

“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.

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

Her training has unlocked collaborative opportunities for Australia’s space industry, including a delegation of Australian organisations presenting to ESA and German Aerospace Centre representatives during a trip in March 2024.

As part of her training, Katherine has also done extensive public outreach – reaching tens of millions of people through media interviews and events while also inspiring Australia, particularly women and girls, to pursue education and careers in STEM.

An ambassador for Australia’s space industry

“Congratulations on completing this major milestone as the first Australian astronaut. Now you are ready to make the next giant leap, as you boldly go where no Australian woman has gone before!”

~ Andrew Thomas,
NASA Astronaut (Retired)

“We are proud of Katherine. She will return to Australia a qualified astronaut brimming with knowledge, insights and connections that will help generate global opportunities for our industry.”

~Enrico Palermo,
Head of the Australian Space Agency

Our department recognises the First Peoples of this Nation and their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the lands, waters, seas, skies, and communities.

We Acknowledge First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Custodians and Lore Keepers of the oldest living culture and pay respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.