Dr. Norah Patten from Ballina, Co. Mayo to Join Virgin Galactic Space Mission - Visit North Mayo

Ballina Native to Fulfil Lifelong Dream

Mayo North Tourism is thrilled to celebrate the announcement today that Dr. Norah Patten, hailing from Ballina, Co. Mayo, will be a member of the Virgin Galactic team to travel to space! Dr Patten, along with two other researchers from the US and Canada, will undertake the mission on Virgin Galactic’s second generation of spacecraft, known as Delta, during the first year of its operation. She is set to be part of a team being sent by the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS) to advance scientific knowledge on supporting life in space and it follows on from a similar mission the Institute carried out last year. This monumental achievement marks Dr. Patten’s entry into the histories of space exploration, fulfilling her lifelong ambition to become Ireland’s first astronaut.

Norah Patten hails from Ballina in Co.Mayo (image: Space Norah FB page)

The commercial space flight will be less than two hours long and is sub-orbital, meaning that it will travel to and from space without going around the earth.

A Journey Fuelled by Passion

Dr. Patten’s journey to the stars began at the young age of 11 during a family trip to NASA in the United States. Captivated by the wonders of space, she dedicated her life to learning everything she could about space exploration, rockets, and the astronautic sciences. This early fascination set her on a path to become Ireland’s first astronaut.

Norah Patten from Ballina County Mayo with her father Pat and mother Bridie Patten. Image: Space Norah FB

Intensive Training and Preparation

Her rigorous training and impressive background make her an ideal candidate for this mission. In 2017, she was one of 12 participants globally selected for a unique scientist-astronaut training program in Florida. As part of the Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) training, she underwent high G-force training, spacesuit training using a Final Frontier Design suit, and hypoxia training. Dr. Patten also endured a sea survival course and advanced spacecraft egress testing, experiences that have prepared her for the demanding environment of space.

Reflecting on her early inspiration, Dr. Patten said, “I just thought ‘This is so cool’. We got to see the wind tunnels, the aircraft, all of those kinds of things. The exposure to something like that at that age was so important. Back then the standard career was that girls would go into nursing and teaching, but this lit a spark in me for something completely different.”

Norah Patten in training for Space (Image: Space Norah FB)

Academic and Professional Journey

Norah attended St. Mary’s Secondary School in Ballina, Co. Mayo, and her academic career began with a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Limerick, followed by an internship at Boeing in Seattle. She later completed a PhD on wind tunnel testing and joined the International Space University as a teaching associate. Throughout her career, she has remained focused on her ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut, participating in intensive training and research programs to bring her dream closer to reality.

Reflecting on her inspiration, Dr. Patten said, “I just thought ‘This is so cool’. We got to see the wind tunnels, the aircraft, all of those kinds of things. The exposure to something like that at that age was so important.” Her journey included an internship at Boeing and a PhD on wind tunnel testing, all while contributing to the International Space University as a teaching associate.

Local Pride and Global Impact

Mairead Melody Carr, Manager of Mayo North Tourism, expressed immense pride in Dr. Patten’s achievements. “My level of pride is on a different level,” she said. As a close friend since childhood, Mairead said that she and all “the girls” witnessed Dr. Patten’s relentless pursuit of her dream. “If anyone deserves this, Norah does.” Family and friends who have supported her throughout her journey also shared their admiration. They have seen firsthand the sacrifices and dedication she has shown in her quest to reach the stars.

Inspiration for Future Generations

Dr. Patten’s role in the upcoming Virgin Galactic mission underscores her commitment to space research and serves as an inspiration to all. Her story demonstrates that with passion and perseverance, even the stars are within reach.

Norah Patten on-site in New Mexico at Spaceport America for the launch of @virgingalactic #Galactic07 last week June 2024 (image Space Norah FB)

Watch Dr. Patten speak about her journey back in November 2018

Join us in celebrating this incredible achievement for Dr. Patten and the pride it brings to Ballina and all of Count Mayo.

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