Mayo woman to continue her quest to become Ireland’s first astronaut

Dr. Norah Patten, originally from Ballina, has announced that she will be returning to the USA in April to continue her training as a scientist-astronaut candidate.

Last October, Dr. Patten made the headlines when she became Ireland’s first scientist - astronaut candidate with Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere).

During that training program, Norah learned the necessary skills required to effectively conduct research on the next generation of space vehicles.

That training included high-g flights, hypoxia training and spacesuit training, as well as learning the science behind the Earth’s atmosphere.

In an exciting announcement, Dr. Patten has confirmed that she has been selected to participate in the next phase of the training and will depart for the USA on April 7.

She told The Connaught Telegraph: “I will be doing two related training programs back to back. Spacecraft Egress and Rescue Operations will teach us hands on skills required during the spacecraft landing phase.

“I will also be taking part in the Advanced Spacecraft Egress and Post Landing Operations which will include learning how to exit the spacecraft with and without the spacesuit on.”

Egress is the process of getting out of the vehicle and Norah’s training will cover many aspects including evacuation from the spacecraft, rescue and raft operations, sea survival, nominal and contingency operations, and spacecraft design.

Twelve candidates have been selected for this unique training program and Norah is the only Irish person. In addition, this is the first time PoSSUM are running the advanced egress program.

The instruction materials are derived directly from NASA astronaut instruction texts and the trainers include a former NASA astronaut instructor, Mr. Ken Trujillo.

The PoSSUM team have invested in a mock-up of a full scale frame of the Orion spacecraft, the latest NASA spacecraft currently in development, for use during the training.

Norah’s interest in space was initially sparked after a family trip to NASA at the age of 11. Since then, she has done everything in her power to develop her own career in space.

She is a University of Limerick graduate, having obtained a bachelor of engineering and PhD in aeronautical engineering.

Norah is a faculty member at the International Space University and is determined to inspire others to shoot for the stars.

She said: “My new saying is ‘the sky is not the limit’! The feedback and enthusiasm has been incredible and that has made me even more determined.

"I am really looking forward to this next stage of the training – it is another step closer to achieving my ultimate goal of becoming Ireland’s first astronaut. I would also like to thank AerLingus for their generosity in sponsoring my flights this April.”

Norah will depart Dublin on April 7 and you can follow her updates and progress on Twitter @SpaceNorah and Facebook @NorahPatten