As the clocked ticked over to midnight to welcome in 2024, it became the year that Katherine Bennell-Pegg would realise her dream of becoming an astronaut.

The 39-year-old Australian Space Agency employee has launched back into training with the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany, following a short Christmas break.

‘It’s going to be a stellar 2024!’ Katherine says. ‘There is still so much to do before receiving basic training certification.’

In the coming months Katherine will undergo winter survival training, space station and payload engineering, human and robotic spaceflight operations and language exams. This follows months of lessons involving training in a human centrifuge, hypoxia and hypobaric chambers, scientific labs, medical, and diving to prepare for spacewalks.

‘This training is important for preparing for human space flight, as well as building knowledge that can benefit our society, environment and science,’ Katherine explains.

‘The work and research involved in going to space has enormous impact in tackling real-world issues such as climate change, population growth and physical wellbeing.’

Katherine says a highlight of her training has been the December visit to the US with her ESA class. The team trained in the full scale mock-ups of the International Space Station (ISS) pressurised modules and vehicles, and Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Watch: Katherine's visit to Axiom Space

Whilst in the US, Katherine presented at the Women in Leadership event at the Australian Embassy, and visited stakeholders Blue Origin, Axiom and Collins Aerospace.

The Space Engineer became the first non-American to be fitted into the Collins prototype spacesuit, which could be worn by astronauts on the upcoming Artemis missions.

‘It’s moments like these that make you step back and go ‘wow, what would my 10-year-old self be thinking right now’,’ Katherine said of the experience.

The mum-of-two is getting used to carving her own path and is also the first person to be trained as an astronaut under the Australian flag.

‘When I first saw the Australian flag on the flight suit it was a special moment. I may be the first, but I’m going to do my best to make sure I’m not the last.

‘If I can inspire more young people to literally reach for the stars and pursue a career in STEM, that’s something I’d be proud of.’

Katherine and her fellow ASCANS (astronaut candidates) will graduate in April, qualified for assignment on missions to ISS.

A woman in an astronaut suit smiling.


The images in this news article were supplied by Collins Aerospace and the video was produced by Axiom Space. 

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