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Space

UK astronaut Rosemary Coogan aims for the stars after graduation

UK astronaut Rosemary Coogan is a step closer to space after a graduation ceremony today following her European Space Agency (ESA) training.



Above: Rosemary Coogan.
Courtesy ESA / Photo by P. Sebirot

Rosemary, who was selected as an ESA astronaut candidate from more than 22,500 applicants in 2022, has spent the last year training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

The 33-year-old from Belfast, Northern Ireland, will now take part in operational tasks within ESA, which could include working in mission control or crew support, until she is assigned to a mission.

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ESA astronaut Rosemary Coogan said: "Graduating from astronaut basic training is an incredibly moving moment for me. From dreaming about space to now being one step closer to reaching it, I’m filled with gratitude and determination to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity.  

"I’m proud to share this moment with my fellow astronaut graduates and of the commitment of our international team to exploration. Together, we stand ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, united by our shared passion for space."

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: "Our congratulations to British astronaut, Rosemary Coogan, on getting her astronaut ‘wings’ as she graduates from her year-long basic space training with the European Space agency in Cologne. We wish her the best as she now plans for her first mission into space.

"It’s a proud moment for the UK which will inspire many more here and beyond to see that the sky need not be the limit of their ambitions.

"Our country’s commitment to space exploration has never been clearer – from UK work on the James Webb Space Telescope to the UK-built Rosalind Franklin Mars Rover launching in the coming years."

Above: ESA astronaut Rosemary Coogan taking part in winter survival training in the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees as part of her basic astronaut training.
Courtesy ESA / Photo by Trailhaven

Rosemary and her fellow graduates from the class of 2022 astronaut candidates were the first new recruits to ESA in 13 years.

She has been trained to conduct scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station, given medical training and studied astronomy, astrophysics, radiation physics and meteorology.

The astronauts have been trained in technical skills including spacecraft systems, flight engineering, robotics, and life support systems, giving them the necessary expertise for mission success.

Rosemary has undergone winter survival training in the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees and experienced the effects of hypoxia first-hand in a pressure chamber, enabling her to recognise symptoms and respond accordingly in low-oxygen environments in case of an air leak or reduced pressure in a spacecraft.

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She has also experienced centrifuge rides to simulate high g-forces during rocket launches and zero-gravity flights to provide a taste of the unique challenges and sensations awaiting her in space.

The training involved a visit to NASA’s facilities at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and scuba diving for spacewalk training under water in NASA’s 12-meter-deep Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). This facility hosts a replica of the entire International Space Station, where astronauts can perform underwater simulations of spacewalks.

Above: (left to right) ESA astronaut candidates Rosemary Coogan, Sophie Adenot and Raphaël Liégois with diving instructors training at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre neutral buoyancy facility.
Courtesy ESA / Photo by B. Schulze

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: "Our congratulations across the UK space sector go to Rosemary on her graduation. Astronaut training is a rigorous process and Rosemary and her fellow astronauts have developed new skills and overcome intense challenges to graduate today. This is an exciting step on her journey and we are very proud of what she has achieved.   

"With every astronaut, there is a dedicated team of people working behind the scenes to achieve the incredible. Space has an incredible power to inspire and I know Rosemary’s graduation will encourage young people to shoot for the stars."

Rosemary is now a certified ESA astronaut and ready to enter the next space station training phase called pre-assignment training. She graduated alongside Sophie Adenot (France), Pablo Álvarez Fernández (Spain), Raphaël Liégeois (Belgium), Marco Sieber (Switzerland) and Australian Space Agency astronaut candidate Katherine Bennell-Pegg, who joined the group through a cooperation agreement with ESA.

Rosemary’s selection was announced following the ESA Council of Ministers meeting in Paris in 2022 where the UK Space Agency committed a record £1.84 billion of funding to new missions and programmes.

Rosemary was one of three successful UK candidates in the 2022 selection. Former Paralympian John McFall was selected as the first ever astronaut with a physical disability. John is currently taking part in a feasibility study, helping to understand and overcome the barriers space flight presents for astronauts with a physical disability.   

Meganne Christian was chosen as a member of the ESA Astronaut Reserve and is working as Exploration Commercialisation Lead at the UK Space Agency.

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