Sat. May 18th, 2024

‘Dream big’: First astronaut to represent Australia hopes to inspire

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May10,2024
Katherine Bennell-Pegg grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches with her feet in the ocean and her head in the stars.
Her childhood dream was to become an astronaut.
Now the engineer and mum of two has made that dream a reality, becoming the first astronaut to graduate under the Australian flag.

“When I grew up in Australia we didn’t have a space agency, let alone a human space flight program,” she told the Australian Associated Press.

A woman in a blue jumpsuit showing a space training module.

Katherine Bennell-Pegg shows the Columbus training module at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. Credit: AP

“I had the astronaut dream but I never believed I’d have the chance to do it, while representing Australia, so for me, this is the hugest honour.”

Australians Andy Thomas and Paul Scully Power both travelled to space as American citizens.
There has never been an Australian woman in space.
Thomas, a retired NASA astronaut, congratulated Bennell-Pegg on her graduation.

“Now you are ready to make the next giant leap as you boldly go where no Australian woman has gone before,” he said.

Bennell-Pegg started her training with the European Space Agency in Germany in April 2023.
She was one of six astronauts who graduated from the program on Monday.

The rigorous program takes astronauts through low-gravity flights, robotics, scientific experiments, survival, medical and centrifuge training.

A man speaking at a podium.

Australia’s first astronaut, Andy Thomas, travelled to space as an American citizen. Source: AAP / Morgan Sette

Bennell-Pegg said one of the most memorable exercises was the centrifuge training.

“We get put into a little capsule in the dark and we go through the full g-force profile over a launch and return,” she said.
“You just feel this crushing force … you can imagine yourself in a rocket, on the capsule coming back and you know you can handle that and its effects.
“I was pretty dizzy afterwards — I may have walked into a pole.”
Now that she has graduated with her basic training certification, Bennell-Pegg is qualified for missions to the International Space Station, although there are no space missions planned for her yet.
“I would be honoured to represent Australia in space should I ever get the chance,” she said.

“It’s a really exciting time to be involved in space flight so the future is open, and I’m optimistic, but one step at a time.”

Bennell-Pegg is a director of space technology at the Australian Space Agency.
She said she would return to Australia in mid-2024 and hoped to inspire the next generations of children who, just as she had, dreamed of going into space.
“I want to be able to go into schools and tell kids an astronaut dream is a legitimate dream and to dream big,” she said.
Enrico Palmero, the head of the Australian Space Agency, said the organisation was proud of Bennell-Pegg and glad to welcome her back as a fully qualified astronaut.

“Katherine will return to Australia a qualified astronaut brimming with knowledge, insights and connections that will help generate global opportunities for our industry — driving more innovation and economic development here at home,” he said.

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “‘Dream big’: First astronaut to represent Australia hopes to inspire”
  1. Wow, what an inspiring story! Katherine Bennell-Pegg’s journey to become Australia’s first astronaut really shows that with determination and hard work, dreams do come true. She is breaking boundaries and paving the way for future generations of Australian astronauts. Dream big, everyone!

  2. As a fellow Aussie, I am so inspired by Katherine’s achievement! It’s amazing to see her dream of becoming an astronaut come true, and it just proves that with determination and hard work, anything is possible.

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