Dr Norah Patten to become first Irish person in space

20 Jun 2024

Dr Norah Patten. Image: Linda Hanlon

The Mayo-born aeronautical engineer, author and STEM advocate said she is excited to represent Ireland and further our understanding of microgravity research.

Dr Norah Patten is set to become the first person from Ireland to go to space as part of an international spaceflight mission.

Patten will join Kellie Gerardi of the US and Dr Shawna Pandya of Canada as crew members aboard Virgin Galactic’s new Delta vehicle as part of a space mission organised by the US-based International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS).

The mission is anticipated to take place within the first year of Delta commercial service, which “remains on track” to commence in 2026.

In an announcement today (20 June) the IIAS said that Patten, Gerardi and Pandya will conduct microgravity research aboard the Virgin Galactic Delta flight, building on knowledge and insights gained on a similar spaceflight conducted last year.

Patten, who is from Mayo and lives in Dublin, is an aeronautical engineer and bioastronautics researcher with IIAS. An author and strong advocate of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], she has been involved in several microgravity research campaigns, commercial spacesuit testing and evaluation, and emergency egress operations.

‘It’s such an incredible honour’

She holds a PhD in aeronautical engineering from University of Limerick and has participated in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Programme. She currently also works as commercial manager at Dublin-based space-tech company Réaltra Space Systems Engineering, and has previously worked at Boeing and Bell Labs Alcatel Lucent.

“It is such an incredible honour to represent Ireland, IIAS and our research community on this next spaceflight opportunity with Virgin Galactic,” Patten said. “I’m so excited to be able to build on the successes of IIAS-01, our inaugural suborbital spaceflight, and further our contribution to and understanding of microgravity research.”

When Patten undertakes the mission in 2026, she will become the first person from Ireland to go to space. In April, Rosemary Coogan of Northern Ireland became the latest Irish person to become an astronaut after graduating from the European Space Agency class of 2022.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic