The Changemakers: Dr Norah Patten on getting set to become Ireland’s first astronaut
In this month’s issue of IMAGE magazine, Orla Neligan talked to the Irish women who are making a big impact in their respective fields.
Dr Norah Patten
It’s fitting that the mantra “shoot for the stars, the sky is not the limit” is one scientist-astronaut Dr Norah Patten favours. Her life’s goal has been getting to space ever since a family trip to NASA when she was 11 years old, and she is firmly on course to be Ireland’s first astronaut.
Photo credit: Barry McCall
When asked how she challenges preconceptions, “keep pushing forward” is her reply. Not that she had many; she relishes a challenge and deems success as making a positive contribution to the world.
Who or what inspires you?
“Other people – I have had amazing mentors and friends who I look to for advice and inspiration.”
She recently established a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) product for children called Planet Zebunar, an interactive galactic adventure that promotes diversity and inclusion while introducing children to STEM concepts. “I didn’t set out to be an agent of change, I just wanted to share my experiences with others, especially children, to prove to them what was possible. I want to show people that no matter how big their ambitions are, nothing should hold them back.”
If she does become Ireland’s first astronaut, she’ll be bringing her camera and Plant Zebunar’s Astro Granny with her to space. “She’s a great character – a superhero granny that will help explain elements of space to younger people when I get home.” And that’s what Patten will continue to do – prove to a younger generation that you can be the scientist, the astronaut and the superhero too.
Biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
“Never take anything for granted.”