An Irish woman, Dr. Norah Patten, remains on course to become the country’s first ever person in space.
by Áine Bonner
Dr. Norah Patten, from Ballina in Co. Mayo, is one of 12 participants from around the world selected to take part in a unique scientist-astronaut training programme in Florida.
Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) is designed to teach candidates the skills required to effectively conduct research on the next generation of space vehicles and it takes place from 7 October to 11 October.
Norah, who is 34, said: “I’ve met many astronauts over the years and I am aware this is a long road. But I have spent my life focused on this goal of getting to space and for me, the journey has always been as important as the destination.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn hands on skills, to experience what it is actually like to operate in a pressurized spacesuit, and to feel the g-forces on my body that are experienced during a rocket launch. I really cannot wait.”
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, including entering a high profile competition to win a trip to space in 2013.
In 2014, Norah sent Ireland’s first student experiment to the International Space Station and she is now a faculty member at the International Space University.
She grew up in Ballina, Co. Mayo, her father from Achill and mother from Belmullet. She is the youngest of 5 children and became fascinated with space at the age of 11 after a family trip to NASA in Cleveland, Ohio.
She never let go of that passion; designing rockets for her junior certificate art project, visiting NASA on numerous occasions as a teenager, and strategically selecting to study Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Limerick.
Since then, Norah has gone on to obtain her PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from University of Limerick, she is currently a faculty member at the International Space University and has participated in many space related professional development programs over the years.
In 2014, Norah managed ‘The Only Way is Up’ project which sent Ireland’s first student experiment to the International Space Station. Having a keen interest in education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), Norah founded her own company, Planet Zebunar, which is launching a new series of STEM products designed to encourage, inspire and motivate the next generation of engineers, astronauts, scientists and innovators.