Dr Suzie Imber, from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, is a step closer to becoming an astronaut after being crowned the winner of BBC Two’s ‘Astronauts: Have You Got What It Takes?.’
As part of the programme, Dr Imber and 11 other candidates were put through a series of gruelling tests to find out who had the special qualities needed to be an astronaut using standards set by the world’s space agencies.
They were assessed by astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, along with former NASA medical researcher Dr Kevin Fong, and psychologist Dr Iya Whiteley.
During the series, the candidates had remarkable access to astronaut training facilities around the world including the state-of-the-art German Space Centre, a secret facility in Sweden and NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Dr Imber said: “When they announced I was the winner, I think you could tell from my expression that I was in total shock. I was standing next to two exceptional candidates who had become my friends in the process, and fully expected one of them to have won instead of me.
“I think that performing at a national level in multiple sports, combined with a PhD and a decade of research experience, allowed me to perform consistently well throughout the programme. This type of selection process requires physical and emotional resilience, as well as testing both intellectual capacity and natural ability over a broad range of skill sets, she said.
“I really enjoyed being part of the process, it was an incredible experience for me and I will definitely be applying for the next ESA astronaut selection round, but for now I’m really looking forward to getting back to training, and doing some research. I’m also looking forward to taking part in more public outreach events because I’ve realised how important it is for us to inspire the next generation of people who want to go and become scientists and part of that is sharing our experiences and encouraging people to go and study science.”
Suzie is a 33-year-old associate professor of Planetary Science and a graduate of the University of Leicester, having studied for her PhD in the Department of Physics and Astronomy under the supervision of Professor Steve Milan.