A NASA astronaut travels the central North Island to meet space and science fans

Record astronaut and NASA microbiologist Dr. Kate Rubins will be landing in Aotearoa New Zealand for the first time to take part in a community STEM initiative organized by the Tauranga STEM Festival (STEMFest)/STEM Wana Trust. It will tour the central North Island, visiting Palmerston North, Taupō, Rotorua and Tauranga in early January 2023.

Photo credit: NASA

Rubins will kick off his tour at Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North on Sunday 8 January with an interactive workshop for families and stop in Taupō and Rotorua on Monday 9 January for a meet and greet with young space and science fans, culminating on the waterfront. AN EVENING UNDER THE STARS on Tuesday January 10 at Tauranga’s Strand.

Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in space and successfully sequenced mouse, bacterial, and viral DNA samples in microgravity. During her two spaceflight missions, she logged a total of 300 days in space and performed four spacewalks.

She was inspired to learn about the stars with her father, going to local “star-gazing” gatherings and science museums as soon as she could remember. She knew from the age of six that she wanted to be an astronaut and was always fascinated by science and exploring the world. Something that hasn’t changed.

STEMFest founder Tia Lush says, “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Rubins in Aotearoa and introduce her to our tamariki and rangatahi who love STEM. Our goal with this tour is to bring the opportunity to meet a real NASA astronaut directly into the community, without the barriers of expensive tickets, locations that are not family-friendly, and outside of the usual big city centers. Through these free engagements, we hope to see a variety of people of all ages and backgrounds who may never have thought they could meet an astronaut feel inspired to pursue their dreams.”

“The success of STEMFest has shown that we are a nation of curious thinkers and space is another area where Aotearoa New Zealand’s future workforce will need creative problem solving and we encourage whānau to come along to one of the venues and bring their curiosity.”

Attendance at either location is free, but tickets are required. Visit www.stemfest.nz for more details and free tickets.

Notes for the editor


Palmerston North at Te Manawa Sunday 8 January 2023 1pm to 3pm

Taupō Library Monday 9 January 2023 at 12.30pm

Rotorua Library Monday 9 January 2023 at 4pm

Tauranga CBD Waterfront Tuesday 10 January 2023 at 6pm

Participation in all events is free, but
tickets are required to manage capacity limits for certain seats. Visit www.stemfest.nz for more details and free tickets to all venues.

About STEM Wana Trust

A New Zealand registered charity working to promote awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) opportunities for young people and their families through community events, collaborations and meaningful partnerships. The Tauranga STEM Festival (STEMFest) 2022 returned after a three-year hiatus, welcoming almost 5,000 visitors to Tauranga’s CBD on Sunday 2 October 2022.

About Dr. Kate Rubins

Kathleen Rubins was selected by NASA in 2009. Rubins completed her first space flight on Expedition 48/49, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology from the University of California and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry and Department of Microbiology and Immunology. 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 led 14 researchers studying viral diseases that primarily affect Central and West Africa. Rubins most recently served aboard the International Space Station as the flight engineer for Expedition 63/64. During her two flights, she spent a total of 300 days in space, the fourth most days in space by an American female astronaut.

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