Northern Ireland-born astrophysicist becomes astronaut after space-training graduation

Rosemary Coogan was selected to join the European Space Agency’s astronaut training programme in 2022 after beating more than 22,500 applicants

Northern Ireland-born Rosemary Coogan has gained her astronaut wings after graduating from space training as a new European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut.

Following one year of rigorous basic astronaut training, Ms Coogan, along with five others, received astronaut certification at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, and the astronauts are now eligible for space flight.

An astrophysicist with two master’s degrees from Durham University and an astronomy doctorate from Sussex, Ms Coogan, who was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in the south of England, was selected to join the ESA’s astronaut training programme in 2022, after beating more than 22,500 applicants.

Speaking at the graduation, Ms Coogan said it had been a “long-standing” dream of hers to become an astronaut.


“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.”

For now, all five new European astronauts– one of the graduates was an Australian Space Agency candidate – will be assigned for missions to the International Space Station to carry out scientific experiments.

Until being assigned to their space flight mission and advancing to the next training phases, they will take part in operational tasks within the ESA.

They will also undergo refresher training sessions, maintain physical fitness, participate in public relations efforts and contribute to education and outreach activities.

NI Space said Ms Coogan’s graduation is a “truly momentous occasion for the space sector in Northern Ireland”.

Robert Hill, space adviser and cluster manager at NI Space, said they hope Ms Coogan’s appointment will encourage more future astronauts from the North.

“Northern Ireland is quickly becoming a global leader in the sector and has been involved in a number of high-profile projects recently, including the James Webb Space Telescope, and to have Rosemary representing Northern Ireland as our first-ever astronaut is the icing on top of the cake,” he said.

“We’re really looking forward to following Rosemary’s journey and will be cheering her on during her first mission.” – PA