Meet the University of Sussex graduate selected to go to space in astronaut programme

Dr Rosemary Coogan at her graduation <i>(Image: University of Sussex)</i>
Dr Rosemary Coogan at her graduation (Image: University of Sussex)

A University of Sussex Graduate is reaching for the stars after being announced as an astronaut for the European Space Agency.

Dr Rosemary Coogan, who completed her PhD at the university, has been selected as a “career astronaut” and will go into space once she has completed her training.

Dr Coogan is one of 17 astronauts selected by the ESA out of a field of over 20,000 applicants.

Dr Stephen Wilkins, head of astronomy at the University of Sussex, said: “While here, Rose studied the formation of stars and the growth of super-massive black holes in distant galaxies.

“It was at her graduation that I learnt that Rose had been making her way through the ESA’s selection process so it’s wonderful news to find out she’s been successful. Rose is not only a strong astrophysicist, but she has also worked hard to develop a host of skills and attributes which make her so suited to this amazing opportunity.

“To be one of only five career astronauts selected for ESA's first intake in 13 years, from over 20,000 applicants, is an amazing achievement and we’re all incredibly proud in the Astronomy Group at the University of Sussex.”

Dr Coogan is one of only five astronauts to be selected from the UK and is the only astronaut to receive “career astronaut” status.

Successful candidates for the ESA’s programme will begin training in Cologne in Germany where they will complete 12 months of basic training. Once they have been assigned to a space mission, they will then complete task-specific training before their mission to the International Space Station.

Dr Mark Sargent, Dr Coogan’s former PhD supervisor at the University of Sussex, said: "From the very first moment Rose contacted me to enquire about PhD options, it was clear that she had a deeply-rooted curiosity about space, and a strong desire to understand at a fundamental level our cosmic origins.

“It is fantastic that she will now have the opportunity to continue this journey by flying to space herself."

Dr Coogan’s PhD focused on the formation of stars as well as on super-massive black holes.