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Katherine Bennell-Pegg completes astronaut training

Katherine Bennell-Pegg, the Australian Space Agency’s director of space technology, has formally completed her astronaut training in Germany.

The 39-year-old Adelaide resident, who grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, is now eligible for future missions to the ISS and graduates along with five others on her course.

“When I dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child, I never thought it possible to do so representing Australia. It’s an honour to be graduating as an astronaut with the Australian flag on my shoulder,” she said.

“Representing Australia is filled with opportunities to propel our nation’s science and technology forward in the global space arena and to raise the level of aspiration for the next generation.


“I hope my training and whatever comes next helps unlock the path for more Australians to become involved in human spaceflight.”

Bennell-Pegg began her training in April last year, and the news means she’s now 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.

Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency, said, “We are proud of Katherine. She will return to Australia a qualified astronaut brimming with knowledge, insights and connections that will help generate global opportunities for our industry.”

Bennell-Pegg 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 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.

“It is an absolute honour to represent my country as the first astronaut trained under the Australian flag,” she said.

“Through my training, I see astronaut candidates with Defence backgrounds being highly successful, given the overlap in competencies required for astronauts.

“I see real potential in Australia harnessing Defence training to help develop potential future astronauts.”

Separately to Bennell-Pegg, UNSW PhD graduate Dr Meganne Christian took part in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) astronaut training program and became Australia's first female astronaut. However, dual citizen Christian is formally representing the United Kingdom.

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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