Katherine Bennell-Pegg, who volunteered in India, makes history as Australia’s first female astronaut

Katherine was remarkably one of only 25 people to complete the European Astronaut Corp selection process, from 22,500 eligible applicants.

In a remarkable feat of perseverance and talent, Katherine Bennell-Pegg has made history by becoming the first person to become a qualified astronaut under the Australian flag by earning certification from the European Space Agency – ESA in Cologne, Germany.

Her achievement comes following her successful completion of the rigorous selection process conducted by the ESA, a journey that saw her emerge triumphant from a pool of 22,500 eligible applicants, numbering among a select group of only 25 individuals.

Image: Katherine Bennell-Pegg (Source: AUSTRADE LinkedIn)

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Enrico Palermo the head of the Australian Space Agency wrote on a social media post, “What a special moment to watch our Australian astronaut, Katherine Bennell-Pegg, graduate alongside the European Space Agency – ESA’s class of 2022 in Cologne – the ‘hoppers’.”

As a nation, we can all feel a sense of pride in Katherine’s achievement – the first qualified astronaut under the 🇦🇺 flag.

Enrico Palermo the Head of the Australian Space Agency with Katherine Bennell-Pegg; Image Source: LinkedIn Enrico Palermo

“The training has opened doors and is going to continue to do so, allowing us to further grow our national space ecosystem. Katherine will bring home knowledge, insights and connections that will help generate global collaboration opportunities for our industry – driving more investment, innovation and economic development here at home,” he further added.

“Katherine’s achievement inspires us all to dream big.”

Katherine in a statement said:

“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.”

In 2007, Katherine graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in aeronautical Engineering (Space) and a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) in physics from the University of Sydney.

She kept busy during her studies, completing internships as a mechanical engineer, as a physics researcher, and later, working as a computer programmer. She was also an Australian Army Reservist, a volunteer in the NSW SES, and travelled to India with Engineers Without Borders.

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It was in her voyage to India with Engineers Without Borders that Bennell-Pegg discovered the true power of technology to uplift communities and transform lives.

She adds:

“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.”

Image: Katherine Bennell-Pegg (Source: AUSTRADE LinkedIn)

Her journey was just beginning, marked by a relentless drive to push the boundaries of possibility. In 2023, as an employee of the Australian Space Agency (ASA), Katherine was invited by the ESA to undertake Basic Astronaut Training in Germany, becoming the first international astronaut candidate to do so.

She finally received her certification alongside the European Space Agency – ESA – ESA Class of 2022 and is now qualified for missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

Now, Katherine stands on the brink of history as Australia’s first qualified astronaut inspiring many others that there’s always a triumph of ambition over adversity, of dedication over doubt.

Image: Katherine Bennell-Pegg (Source: AUSTRADE LinkedIn)

ASA said in a statement:

“Through her training as an employee of the Australian Space Agency, she has been able to develop and harness knowledge that can be brought home to benefit all Australians.

ASA and the ESA have a strong history of partnership relating to space, with treaties in place since 1979 to enable ESA ground stations on Australian soil to track spacecraft and interplanetary missions.

Most recently, a new deep space antenna has begun construction in regional Western Australia as part of a multi-million-dollar collaboration.

WATCH: Graduation ceremony of ESA astronaut class of 2022

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