Australia has its first female astronaut, with University of New South Wales alumna Dr Meganne Christian selected as part of the European Space Agency’s 2022 astronaut class.
Dr Christian is one of 11 reservist astronauts selected, alongside five career astronauts and one parastronaut from more than 22,500 eligible applicants. She will represent the United Kingdom, having been born there and holding citizenship. Dr Christian is also a citizen of Italy and New Zealand.
Dr Christian is a materials scientist and atmospheric physicist. She came to Australia aged five and went to The Illawarra Grammar School in Wollongong, NSW.
In 2009 she received a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the university medal in industrial chemistry. In 2014 she received her doctorate from UNSW for research into hydrogen storage.
Dr Christian currently works at the Italian National Research Agency and has also done stints at the Antarctic research base at Concordia Station.
As a reservist astronaut, Dr Christian will retain her day job, but will receive a consultancy contract and astronaut training from the European Space Agency and will undertake annual medical and fitness checks.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic:
“Huge congratulations to Dr Christian on behalf of the Australian Government and all Australians on her incredible achievement.
“Dr Christian’s selection is further evidence of the extraordinary scientific talent that we generate through our education and university system here in Australia.
“We know we need more young Australians, particularly women and people from diverse backgrounds, to enter the STEM workforce. Role models like Dr Christian will help show girls and young women that they can dream big.
“Space programs are so much more than taking ‘giant leaps’, as inspiring as they are. Much of the work that is done by astronauts is on applied space medicine and science, which supports Earth-based research applications, advancing health, engineering and sustainability.”
Quotes attributable to Head of Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo:
“The potential of Dr Christian’s achievement to inspire the next generation of young Australians through science and exploration is immense.
“We often refer to space as the gateway to STEM because of its ability to ignite curiosity – and what does that more than knowing someone who grew up right here in Australia might one day end up in space.
“This also presents a great opportunity for Australia to build on our relationship with the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency.”