Space scientist makes giant leap towards becoming an astronaut

Space scientist Dr Suzie Imber from our Department of Physics and Astronomy will be competing to realise her dream of becoming an astronaut as part of a televised competition broadcast by the BBC.

Suzie will be taking part in ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’, which will broadcast the first of its six episodes on Sunday 20 August.

As part of the programme, famous astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, former NASA medical researcher Dr Kevin Fong, and psychologist Dr Iya Whiteley, have chosen 12 exceptional applicants, including Suzie, from thousands who applied.

They will be competing to receive the ultimate reference - Chris’s backing for their application when the space agencies next take on recruits to become astronauts.

Suzie said: “Taking part was an incredible experience for me, and enabled me to try things I would never have had a chance to do otherwise.

“The other candidates were amazing, and it was a pleasure to get to know them. We’re a tight knit bunch and we have stayed in touch. I’ve never met such an interesting, talented, well-rounded, intelligent group of people in my life!

“The programme has made me even more keen to apply for the next ESA astronaut selection process.”

Suzie is a 33-year-old associate professor of Planetary Science and a graduate of our University, having studied for her PhD in the Department of Physics and Astronomy under the supervision of Professor Steve Milan.

She has held posts at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and the University of Michigan, and is currently involved in instrument design and operation for ESA’s next mission to Mercury. Suzie is also an elite rower and a highly-experienced mountaineer.

Suzie has written computer code to identify and map unclimbed peaks in the Andes and Himalayas before setting off to climb them herself. Suzie has been interested in space from a young age, and has spent her academic career looking at our solar system – her current research looks at terrestrial space weather and Mercury’s magnetosphere.

Celebrity astronaut Chris Hadfield visited our University in 2013, providing insights into what it is like to think like an astronaut, and explaining why our University is a great place for students to study. During the visit he took part in a Q&A session with our students, watched a number of students present their research and interacted with them during a research exhibition.

‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’ will broadcast its first episode on BBC Two on Sunday 20 August at 9:00PM with episodes running for six weeks.

BBC East Midlands feature on Dr Suzie Imber:

A video of Chris on the University campus is available below:

An advert for ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’ is available below: