NASA astronaut touches down in Tauranga today

There is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to meet with record breaking NASA astronaut Dr Kate Rubins at an event in Tauranga on Tuesday 10 January 10 2023. Photo: Supplied.

Record breaking NASA astronaut and microbiologist Dr Kate Rubins will be touching down in Tauranga today.

It is her first visit to New Zealand and she is taking part in a ‘STEM in the Community' initiative organised by Tauranga STEM Festival (STEMFest)/STEM Wana Trust.

Kate is touring the central North Island, visiting Palmerston North, Taupō, Rotorua, and culminating in a ‘Night in with an Astronaut' at Tauranga Boys' College this evening, Tuesday January 10.

'We're so excited to be able to host Dr Rubins as she explores Aotearoa and to be able to introduce her to our STEM loving tamariki and rangatahi,” says STEMFest Founder Tia Lush.

Dr Kate Rubins

Kathleen Rubins was selected by NASA in 2009. She completed her first spaceflight on Expedition 48/49, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of California and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department.

Dr Kate Rubins. Photo: Supplied.

Dr Rubins conducted her undergraduate research on HIV-1 integration in the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She worked as a Fellow/Principal Investigator at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and headed 14 researchers studying viral diseases that primarily affect Central and West Africa.

She most recently served aboard the International Space Station as flight engineer for Expedition 63/64.

Across her two flights, she has spent a total of 300 days in space, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.

STEM in the Community

'Our goal for this tour is to bring the opportunity of meeting a real-life NASA astronaut directly to the community, without the barriers of expensive tickets and taking this unique experience outside of the usual big city hubs,” says Tia.

Dr Kate Rubins. Photo: Supplied.

STEM Wana Trust is a registered charity in New Zealand working to promote awareness of opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to young people and their families through community events, collaborations and meaningful partnerships. Tauranga STEM Festival (STEMFest) 2022 returned after a three year hiatus and welcomed nearly 5,000 visitors to Tauranga's CBD on Sunday October 2 2022.

'We hope that with these free engagements we see a variety of people of all ages and backgrounds who might never have thought they could meet an NASA astronaut, feel inspired to pursue their dream to go out of this world,” says Tia.

'Tauranga is home to the award winning STEM Festival so what better way to end the tour with Dr Rubins than to host an amazing free event for our STEM whānau and anyone who is interested in space exploration.”

A ‘Night under the Stars' on Tuesday January 10 will also feature New Zealand's home-grown aerospace talent and showcase the different types of career opportunities in this growing sector.

A panel will feature the three following special guests:

Dr. Sarah Kessans - Biochemist and senior lecturer from University of Canterbury's School of Product Design.

Kate Breach - Aerospace engineer and President of Women in Space Aotearoa NZ.

Emma Comrie-Thomson - Environmental management specialist and Team Lead for regulatory compliance and environmental innovation at Rocket Lab.

Dr Kate Rubins. Photo: Supplied.

Other activities for the event include rocket launching with deadline sponsor Manawa Energy, star gazing and astronomical interaction with Tauranga Astronomical Society, and other family friendly activities for all ages.

'The success of STEMFest has shown that we are a nation of curious thinkers and Space exploration is another field where Aotearoa New Zealand's future workforce will look to excel on the global scene,” says Tia.

The event is being held at Tauranga Boys' College Tuesday January 10 at 6pm.

All locations in Palmerston North, Taupō, Rotorua and Tauranga have reached full capacity within days of tickets being released, but there is a waitlist available. It's free to attend any of the locations, but tickets are required to manage capacity limits for certain venues. Visit for more details and to go on the waitlist for free tickets and follow @stemfestnz for more information.


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