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Former Durham University student becomes UK’s third astronaut after graduating from space training

A former Durham University student turned astrophysicist is set to become the UK’s newest astronaut after graduating from space training.

Doctor Rosemary Coogan was selected to join the European Space Agency’s prestigious training programme in 2022, beating more than 22,500 applicants to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Born in Northern Ireland, she is now eligible for space flight and will become the UK’s third astronaut, following Helen Sharman, who became the first Briton in space in 1989, and Tim Peake, who went to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015.

Rosemary, who has two master degrees from Durham University as well as an astronomy doctorate from Sussex, underwent a year of rigorous astronaut training which involved honing skills in spacecraft systems, spacewalking, flight engineering, robotics and life support systems, as well as survival and medical training. Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the talented Durham alumna said it had been a “long-standing” dream of hers to become an astronaut.

“We are often asked, I think all of us have been asked: ‘When was the moment you decided that you wanted to become an astronaut? When was the moment you decided you wanted to do it?’. And I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, and for a lot of us, it really has been something that has always been in our heads,” she said.

“Perhaps if we didn’t always know exactly where it was going to lead, exactly how it was going to come to this stage, I personally have always been fascinated in space. And now to find out that, as an astronaut, you can go there and you can do this fantastic science and bring that back, it’s everything come together as a dream.”

Rosemary and her fellow graduates will now move on to the phases of pre-assignment and mission-specific training, paving the way for future missions to the ISS and beyond. Until being assigned to their space flight mission and advancing to the next training phases, they will take part in operational tasks within the European Space Agency.

The UK Space Agency’s head of space exploration, Libby Jackson, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see British astronauts a part of the European Space Agency programme. We’re a very proud contributor to the European Space Agency, and a strong contributor to the overall human and robotic missions.

“Astronauts are the very visible part of the whole space sector. So it’s really important for the UK that our astronauts – Rosemary, John and Meg – they are champions not just for human space flight, but for everything that goes on in the UK across space.”

Former Paralympian John McFall is part of a feasibility study to see if he can fly as a disabled astronaut, while Meganne Christian is a reserve astronaut who could join the programme if someone else drops out. NI Space also described Rosemary’s graduation as a “truly momentous occasion for the space sector in Northern Ireland”.

Robert Hill, space adviser and cluster manager at NI Space, said: “We hope that Rosemary’s appointment to the ESA will inspire more and more young people in Northern Ireland to consider a career in the industry, which provides endless opportunities. We’re really looking forward to following Rosemary’s journey and will be cheering her on during her first mission.”

View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/former-durham-university-student-becomes-29036831

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