NASA Astronaut Tours Central North Island

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Record-breaking NASA astronaut and microbiologist Dr Kate Rubins will be touching down in Aotearoa New Zealand for the first time and is taking part in a STEM in the Community initiative organised by Tauranga STEM Festival (STEMFest)/STEM Wana Trust. She will be touring the central North Island, visiting Palmerston North, Taupō, Rotorua, and Tauranga in early January 2023.

Rubins will be starting her tour at Palmerston North’s Te Manawa Museum on Sunday 8th January with an interactive workshop for families, stopping off at Taupō and Rotorua on Monday 9th January for a meet and greet with young space and science fans, culminating in a waterfront ‘EVENING UNDER THE STARS’ extravaganza at Tauranga’s Strand on Tuesday 10th January.

Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in space successfully sequencing samples of mouse, bacteria, and virus DNA in microgravity. During her two spaceflight missions, she has logged a total of 300 days in space and conducted four spacewalks.

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

STEMFest Founder Tia Lush says: “We’re thrilled to be able to welcome Dr. Rubins to Aotearoa and introduce her to our STEM loving tamariki and rangatahi. 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, family unfriendly venues and outside of the usual big city hubs. 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 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 field where Aotearoa New Zealand’s future workforce will need creative problem solvers and we encourage whānau to get along to one of the locations and to bring their curiosity.”

It’s free to attend any of the locations, but tickets are required. Visit for more details and free tickets.

About STEM Wana Trust

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 2nd October 2022.

About Dr. Kate Rubins

Kathleen Rubins was selected by NASA in 2009. Rubins 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. 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. Rubins 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.