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Australian astronaut hails increase in space opportunities

The first astronaut to formally represent Australia has hailed the improvement in opportunities for young people interested in pursuing a career in space.

Speaking to 7News, Katherine Bennell-Pegg admitted she left her home country because she didn’t believe she could have a future in the sector. Now, however, she believes the situation has “totally changed”.

“For kids today, they can have a space career without leaving their state,” she said.

Bennell-Pegg is the Australian Space Agency’s director of space technology and formally completed her astronaut training in Germany in April. She's now eligible for future missions to the ISS, should she be called up.


“It's often said that the first person on Mars is in a classroom today, and that may be in an Australian classroom,” she said.

“I’m so excited for the future, not just for me, but for what this can do for Australia’s ability to access space and all of the potential that comes with that.”

Bennell-Pegg began her training in April last year and is the first astronaut to qualify under the Australian flag. While both Paul Scully-Power and Andy Thomas previously travelled into space, both did so as US citizens.

The 39-year-old Adelaide resident, who grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, is a dual Australia–UK citizen and privately applied to join the European Astronaut Corp when it was advertised in 2021.


It was the first selection process since 2009 and she was one of only 25 people to complete the program from 22,500 eligible applicants.

As part of her course, Bennell-Pegg undertook ‘parabolic flights’, experiencing weightlessness and operating experiments in low-gravity, and centrifuge training, meaning she learned how to deal with the intense G-force of space flights.

“There’s no flight guaranteed for me,” she previously told the ABC. “That’s not unusual for astronauts when they graduate.

“For my class, I’m graduating with five others. All five of them will go to space by 2030, and I’m so excited to see them go up, and I’ll be cheering them on.

“And who knows, maybe one day I’ll see them up there too, but the decision for if or when I fly is a decision for Australia to take in the future when the time becomes right to take it.”

Space Connect reported in December how Bennell-Pegg was appointed an honorary group captain in the RAAF for her achievements.

She previously served as a reservist in the Army and said the skills she learned in Defence has helped her in her civil astronaut training.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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