NI born astronomer selected for European Space Agency class of 2022

Rosemary Coogan is among the six astronauts to join the European Space Agency workforce as permanent staff members. Credit: ESA

A woman born in Northern Ireland could be sent to space after being selected to join the European Space Agency class of 2022.

Rosemary Coogan is among the six astronauts to join the European Space Agency workforce as permanent staff members.

Ms Coogan received her master's degree in astronomy in 2015, where she conducted research on gamma-ray emission from black holes, before going on to pursue a PhD at the University of Sussex.

Ms Coogan described being selected as a "welcome surprise" and a "real privilege" but said becoming an astronaut was something she had considered.

She explained: "It was certainly on the radar before the application was announced.

"I'm already a space scientist, my research is in galaxy evolution, so I've always been interested in space and space science. And this is really taking it to the next level."

She added: "My family, my partner, have been incredibly supportive and I think without that support from these people, we wouldn't really be able to get to the stage we are today.

"It's a huge part of it - their understanding, their flexibility and their support.

"So I am really grateful for that."

More than 22,500 people applied to join the programme, with the largest number coming from France (7,087), followed by Germany (3,695), and the UK (2,000).

The career astronauts, were selected following a rigorous and comprehensive process that lasted more than a year.

The ESA's last call for astronauts was in 2008, when Tim Peake was among those selected.

He became the first British astronaut to be part of the ESA corps.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: "This is a momentous day for the UK Space Agency, our space sector and the country as a whole.

"Through our investment in the European Space Agency, the UK is playing a leading role in space exploration and collaborating with international partners to use the unique vantage point of space to benefit life on Earth.

"It's also important to remember that, behind every astronaut, there is a dedicated team of people, including in the UK, working behind the scenes to achieve the incredible."

It comes as the UK Government commits £1.84bn for important space programmes at this year's European Space Agency Council of Ministers meeting in Paris.

The investment will cover a range of programmes from space sustainability to supporting the UK-built Rosalind Franklin Mars Rover.

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