Monday, February 26, 2024

North Ireland’s First Astronaut Excited After Selection Process

Belfast-born astronaut Dr Rosemary Coogan has said she is thrilled to have been selected as part of the newest batch of European Space Agency astronauts.

“I’m really thrilled to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”

Spending her early years in Northern Ireland and the south of England, Dr Coogan said it was a wonderful feeling after “quite a long selection process” to make the cut among more than 20,000 applicants.

Ms Coogan was one of just 17 chosen out of approximately 22,500 applicants to join the European Space Agency’s astronaut training programme. This included 270 from Ireland.

The scientist, born in Belfast and who spent her early years moving between Northern Ireland and the south of England, was officially named as one of the astronauts at an event in Paris two weeks ago.

Ms Coogan described knowing she was given the opportunity to head into space as a “wonderful feeling”.

“As you might have heard it was a quite a long selection process,” she told BBC Radio Ulster. “I am really thrilled to have this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started.”

Always fascinated with space, which led to her building a career as an astrophysicist, “becoming an astronaut gives me the opportunity to contribute to a whole different side of space science”.

“A lot of what they do at the International Space Station is not only to do with space but directed to the materials that we use on earth and the human body,” she said, adding it was “quite a different side” of the science.

Following a year’s basic training, the continent’s newest astronauts will spend a further two years on mission-specific training.

It is the first time a new ESA astronaut training programme has started since 2008. This cohort will be eligible to fly from some point in 2026.

“I think it is a really good time to get involved in exploration,” she said.

“Of course, the ISS will continue to be fantastic for the next eight or so years (but) “I am really looking forward to the next steps such as assembling the Gateway, the new space station, which will be much closer to the moon.”

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