NASA Astronaut touches down in Tauranga

A once in a lifetime opportunity for tamariki to meet with a record breaking NASA Astronaut at an event in Tauranga on Tuesday 10th January 2023



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 culminating in a NIGHT UNDER THE STARS extravaganza on Tauranga’s Waterfront.

STEMFest Founder Tia Lush says: “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. 

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. 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. 

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 10th January 2023 will also feature Aotearoa’s home-grown aerospace talent and showcase the different types of career opportunities in this growing sector. A panel will feature 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

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

Lush continues “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.”

All locations 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. Visit for more details and to go on the waitlist for free tickets.



Tia Lush, STEM Wana Trust |

Please follow @stemfestnz on all the social media channels for more information. 

Notes to editor

  • Locations of appearances:
    • Palmerston North at Te Manawa Sunday 8th January 2023 at 1pm – 3pm
    • Taupō Library Monday 9th January 2023 at 12:30pm
    • Rotorua Library Monday 9th January 2023 at 4pm
    • Tauranga CBD Waterfront Tuesday 10th January 2023 at 6pm
  • It’s free to attend all events, but tickets are required to manage capacity limits for certain venues. Visit for more details and free tickets for all locations.

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.

Photography credit: NASA