VIEWERS will be able to see how an Oxford University PhD student fares as part of a gruelling search to find potential astronauts tomorrow.

Merritt Moore, who will soon submit her physics thesis in quantum optics and who is also a professional ballerina, will be one of 12 candidates on BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?

As part of the challenge, potential astronauts were isolated from the outside world, forcing Ms Moore to pause work on her thesis to take part.

As shown in the first episode, candidates were given the task of mastering the art of hovering a helicopter five metres above the ground with just 15 minutes’ tuition.

The Harvard graduate, who is originally from Los Angeles, said: “We start as a 12 and then slowly it goes down to one.

“It was an impressive group and we didn’t know who the contestants were until we got there.

“For most of it I didn’t know which cities we were in. We had no idea what the task was until we did it.”

Away from the small screen she juggles dancing professionally with her work in the laboratory, having started ballet aged 13. She has danced as part of the Zurich Ballet Company, Boston Ballet and the English National Ballet. Currently she is part of the highly-rated London Contemporary Ballet Theatre.

She said of her current work-life balance: “It is very much prioritising what’s most pressing. If it’s experiments I could spend 21 hours a day for three weeks.”

Filming for the show started in March and stars astronaut Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station, as one member of an expert panel deciding who is retained as the process unfolds.

Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? airs tomorrow at 9pm on BBC Two and returns for five consecutive Sundays.