Ireland’s First Astronaut Ready to Take Flight
By Dave Lewis, Editorial Assistant
February / March 2018
Ever since Dr. Norah Patten visited NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, as a child, she knew she wanted to be an astronaut. Twenty-three years later, the Mayo-born adventurer was selected as one of 12 scientists to train as an astronaut as part of Project PoSSUM, an astronautics research and education program that studies the Earth’s upper atmosphere and its role in its changing climate, which took place last October.
“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,” she told Irish news site Joe.ie prior to the training. “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.”
Patten’s training during her time with Project PoSSUM included a variety of tests requiring her to wear special pressurized space suits in which she would experience up to four times her normal body pressure. As well as physical training, her educational background has her ready for space travel. Patten has a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from University of Limerick and has worked with big-time aeronautics institutions like Boeing and the International Space University. Though the program doesn’t guarantee space flight, she is now on a list of candidates available for the journey, one that, were she to take, would make her Ireland’s first astronaut. ♦ Dave Lewis