Former reservist takes one step closer to becoming astronaut after graduating space training

Topic: PeopleReserves Storyline: Royal Naval Reserve

Former Royal Navy Reservist Rosemary Coogan is one step closer to space after graduating today from the European Space Agency Training.

She said she is proud of how far she has come after being selected as an ESA astronaut candidate in 2022, beating more than 22,500 applicants.

The 33-year-old from Belfast will now take part in operational tasks within ESA, which could include working in mission control or crew support, until she is assigned to a mission.

She said: “Graduating from astronaut basic training is an incredibly moving moment for me. From dreaming about space to now being one step closer to reaching it, I’m filled with gratitude and determination to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity.  

“I’m proud to share this moment with my fellow astronaut graduates and of the commitment of our international team to exploration. Together, we stand ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, united by our shared passion for space.”

Rosemary joined the Royal Navy Reserves at HMS Calliope in 2009 and joined HMS Example as an officer cadet before being promoted to Midshipman.

Previous to that, she would spend several weeks a year away from home on board training vessels and at bases as a Cadet Petty Officer with the Sea Cadets – who she spent seven years with.

Rosemary and her fellow graduates from the class of 2022 astronaut candidates were the first new recruits to ESA in 13 years.

She has been trained to conduct scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station, given medical training and studied astronomy, astrophysics, radiation physics and meteorology. 

The astronauts have been trained in technical skills including spacecraft systems, flight engineering, robotics, and life support systems, giving them the necessary expertise for mission success. 

Rosemary has undergone winter survival training in the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees and experienced the effects of hypoxia first-hand in a pressure chamber, enabling her to recognise symptoms and respond accordingly in low-oxygen environments in case of an air leak or reduced pressure in a spacecraft. 

She has also experienced centrifuge rides to simulate high g-forces during rocket launches and zero-gravity flights to provide a taste of the unique challenges and sensations awaiting her in space. 

Rosemary holds two master’s degrees from the University of Durham. She completed her undergraduate master’s degree of Physics in 2013 which focused on physics, mathematics, computer programming and astronomy.

In 2015, she received her master's degree in Astronomy, where she conducted research on gamma-ray emission from black holes. 

In 2019, she graduated with a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Sussex. During that time, she spent one year as a visiting scientist in Paris, two weeks as a visiting astronomer at a Hawaiian observatory and travelled to further countries to present her findings at several international conferences.

She speaks English, French and basic German.

Her training took her back to the United States when she was involved in a visit to NASA’s facilities at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and scuba diving for spacewalk training under water in NASA’s 12-meter-deep Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL).

This facility hosts a replica of the entire International Space Station, where astronauts can perform underwater simulations of spacewalks.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Our congratulations across the UK space sector go to Rosemary on her graduation.

“Astronaut training is a rigorous process and Rosemary and her fellow astronauts have developed new skills and overcome intense challenges to graduate today. This is an exciting step on her journey and we are very proud of what she has achieved.”   

Rosemary is now a certified ESA astronaut and ready to enter the next space station training phase called pre-assignment training. She graduated alongside Sophie Adenot (France), Pablo Álvarez Fernández (Spain), Raphaël Liégeois (Belgium), Marco Sieber (Switzerland) and Australian Space Agency astronaut candidate Katherine Bennell-Pegg, who joined the group through a cooperation agreement with ESA. 

I’m filled with gratitude and determination to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity.

Rosemary Coogan