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Rosemary Coogan standing with arms folded in a blue astronaut's boiler suit with a Union Flag on the sleeve.

Durham University Physics and Astronomy alumna Dr Rosemary Coogan has taken another giant leap towards space by becoming the UK's newest astronaut.

Rosemary, who holds two master’s degrees from Durham, was one of six astronauts to graduate after passing a year-long basic training programme with the European Space Agency (ESA).

In becoming the UK's latest astronaut, Rosemary joins a prestigious group that includes Helen Sharman, the first British person in space, and Tim Peake, the first British ESA astronaut.

She 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.

International Space Station

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

She has also been trained in technical skills including spacecraft systems, flight engineering, robotics, and life support systems.

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.

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.

Dr Rosemary Coogan
ESA astronaut and Durham University alumna

Spacewalk training

The training involved 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.

Rosemary completed a master’s degree in Physics at Durham University in 2013, which focused on physics, mathematics, computer programming and astronomy.

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

Find out more

  • Learn more about Durham alumna and newly graduated astronaut Dr Rosemary Coogan.

  • Read the full announcement from the European Space Agency about its graduating astronauts.

  • See more about Astronomy at Durham.

  • Our Department of Physics is a thriving centre for research and education. Ranked 2nd in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2024 and in the World Top 100 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024, we are proud to deliver a teaching and learning experience for students which closely aligns with the research-intensive values and practices of the University.Feeling inspired? Visit our Physics webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.

  • Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.

  • Main image ESA – P. Sebirot.

Astronaut graduates wearing blue boiler suits and holding their framed graduation certificates

Rosemary Coogan (left) and her fellow graduates who have completed astronaut basic training. Rosemary is the UK's newest astronaut.

Rosemary Coogan in blue winter coat and woolly hat lights a fire in a snowy woodland

Rosemary's basic training included spacecraft systems, flight engineering, robotics, zero-gravity flights and winter survival training (pictured).  

A group of scuba divers under water in a swimming pool looking at the camera.

Rosemary and her fellow graduates also went scuba diving for spacewalk training.