As a child, Katherine Bennell-Pegg looked up to the night sky in awe of the great unknown and dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut who would explore the universe.
Now she will make history as the first Australian woman to be trained as an astronaut by an international space agency.
The 38-year-old moved to Germany with her husband and two daughters to complete her training at the European Space Agency.
But the road to success has been rocky for the past decade, Katherine told FEMAIL, as she admits the career choice is “not a luxury.”
The job places high physical demands and the challenge of continuing courses for the rest of her career.
“There is no linear path to becoming an astronaut. The criteria are constantly evolving. Maybe there are no job opportunities in your career, or just a few,” Katherine told Daily Mail Australia.
“There is a lot of luck involved. But it still takes hard work and perseverance to qualify and be competitive in the selection process.”
While other Aussie women have been trained internationally to become astronauts, they have always done so under the flag of their other nationality – making Katherine the first to do so with the Australian flag on her arm.
Katherine Bennell-Pegg has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Now she becomes the first Australian woman to train abroad as an astronaut under the Australian flag
The 38-year-old moved to Germany with her husband and two daughters to complete her training at the European Space Agency
This busy go-getter grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches before moving to Adelaide in 2019 and is always looking for her next best thing.
And it seems that Katherine will let nothing stand in her way of achieving her otherworldly goals.
The high achiever has two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and is now the director of space technology at the Australian Space Agency.
At University she studied physics and aerospace engineering despite knowing “nothing” about engineering. She signed up for the course simply because it had the word “space” in it.
Katherine has now spent more than a decade developing space missions, technologies and programs in more than six countries.
“I’ve realized that space has so much more to offer than just adventure,” she said, adding, “It plays a vital role in tackling real-world problems and developing new knowledge that will benefit our society, the environment and the science can benefit.
“It has been a privilege to play a part in shaping our growing aerospace sector in Australia.”
Katherine will be training and taking intensive courses for the next 14 months (pictured in a simulator)
Katherine will spend the next 14 months training and graduating abroad to become an astronaut, rather than her current status as an “Astronaut Candidate.”
Once assigned to a mission, pre-mission training takes approximately two years.
‘During basic training we have an intensive training schedule, where our day is strictly planned by the training team,’ she explains.
‘Each part of basic training is very different. So far we have a mix of classroom lessons, practical lessons in labs and time in the gym.’
This “basic” training course covers topics such as winter and ocean survival, emergency medical training, robotics training, spacewalk training, fluid science, and more.
Despite all the hoops she had to jump through to make her dream come true, Katherine said the biggest hurdle was moving her husband and two children to Germany.
Towards the start of her journey, she was one of 22,000 hopefuls to be chosen by the European Space Agency. And despite an 18-month process, she made the top 25 but not the last 17.
Katherine has not yet made her first space trip, but says it is an honor to represent her country.
Katherine has not yet made her first space trip, but says it is an honor to represent Australia
She grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches before moving to Adelaide in 2019
The ecstatic mom has had some epic experiences over the years, floating weightlessly in a zero-gravity plane to help build part of a new International Space Station.
Such a unique career requires not only dedication, but also patience, brains and confidence.
But the ecstatic mother has never looked back.
“In high school, we had to write down three different options for what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote one: astronaut and refused to add more,” she said.
And she will finally be able to fulfill her childhood dream.
Such a unique career requires not only dedication, but also patience, brains and confidence. But the ecstatic mother has never looked back (pictured flying in 2022)