Rosemary Coogan, a scientist from Belfast, has become Northern Ireland's first-ever astronaut after graduating from European Space Agency training on Monday, April 22.

Coogan, 33, is among the ESA's latest astronaut recruits - including Sophie Adenot, Pablo Álvarez Fernández, Raphaël Liégeois, Marco Sieber, and Australian Space Agency candidate Katherine Bennell-Pegg - who have wrapped up their year-long basic training.

Marking their transition to fully qualified astronauts eligible for space missions, they received their certifications at ESA's European Astronaut Centre near Cologne in Germany on Monday.

The ESA astronaut class of 2022 - selected from a remarkable pool of 22,500 applicants across ESA Member States - comprises 17 individuals, including five astronaut candidates and 12 members in the European astronaut reserve.

Their collective journey began in April 2023 upon their arrival at the European Astronaut Centre. Over the past year, they have immersed themselves in a comprehensive training programme, covering various areas such as spacecraft systems, spacewalks, flight engineering, robotics, life support systems, survival, and medical training. 

When a crew of astronauts comes back to Earth, there’s always a chance they might not land where the ground teams are - having to wait many hours or even days before they can be reached.

We’ve been learning how to survive in freezing environments in case of such an event -…

— Rosemary Coogan (@Astro_Rosemary) March 18, 2024

Following their certification, these brand-new astronauts will progress to specialized pre-assignment and mission training, setting the stage for missions to the International Space Station and beyond.

"Graduating from astronaut basic training is an incredibly moving moment for me," Coogan said in a statement via the UK Space Agency on Monday.

"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."

The ESA has shared Monday's graduation ceremony here via YouTube:

Who is Rosemary Coogan?

Coogan was born in Northern Ireland in 1991. From a young age, she spent several weeks per year away from home onboard military training vessels and land bases as a Cadet Petty Officer with the Sea Cadets from 2002 to 2009.

In 2009, she joined the Naval Reserve base HMS Calliope and its vessel HMS Example as an Officer cadet and was later promoted to Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserves.  

Congratulations to #RoyalNavalReservist Rosemary Coogan on her graduation from the @esa's astronaut training - making her one step closer to space. She spoke of her pride of how far she has come after being selected in 2022, beating 22,500 applicants.

— Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) April 22, 2024

Coogan 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.

“From dreaming about space to now being one step closer to reaching it,” read more about @DurhamPhysics and Astronomy graduate @Astro_Rosemary who is the UK’s newest astronaut! 👉

— Durham University (@durham_uni) April 22, 2024

Between 2013 and 2018, she spent more than one year working as a simulation support engineer and research data scientist in the UK, where she worked on software code development projects and developed machine learning techniques for anomaly detection from robotic sensors.

In 2019, Coogan 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 traveled to further countries to present her findings at several international conferences. 

Huge congratulations to Dr Rosemary Coogan ESA Astronaut (@Astro_Rosemary), we can’t wait to see what your first mission will be!🚀

— Sussex Alumni (@sussex_alumni) April 22, 2024

That same year, she started a postdoctoral research fellowship in astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Extra-terrestrial physics in Munich, Germany, to study the evolution of galaxies with astronomical data from space- and ground-based telescopes.

After completing this postdoctoral work in 2022, Rosemary joined French space agency CNES in Paris, France, as a research fellow in space science, where she worked on upcoming ESA/CNES missions such as EUCLID or the analysis of James Webb Space Telescope observations. 

Coogan holds awards for telescope observation time at international observatories ALMA and NOEMA and for her PhD thesis from the University of Sussex Astronomy Centre. 

She was selected as a career astronaut in November 2022.

In her leisure time, Coogan enjoys rowing, scuba diving, hiking, cycling, kayaking and yoga. Her other interests include playing the piano, cooking, board games, and spending time with her family and friends.