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Australia’s first female astronaut selected by ESA

Australia’s first female astronaut selected by ESA

A UNSW PhD graduate is set to become Australia's first female astronaut after being selected to take part in the European Space Agency's (ESA) astronaut training program.

Dr Meganne Christian is a citizen of Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy and New Zealand, although for the purposes of the ESA mission, Christian will technically be representing the United Kingdom.

As part of the program, Christian will join a class of 12 trainee astronauts, including an astronaut with a physical disability, who will undergo rigorous training to prepare them for spacefaring.

Joining the trainees will be five veteran astronauts who will make up the primary mission leaders, with the trainees acting as reserve astronauts.


Despite representing the UK in the upcoming ESA mission, Christian was educated at the University of New South Wales after relocating to Australia when she was just five years old. She graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in 2009 and completed her PhD in 2014 for her research into hydrogen storage.

The ESA program will place the trainee astronauts in a 12-month program that provides comprehensive basic astronaut training to be completed at the ESA’s European Astronaut Centre.

Christian’s primary contributions as an astronaut will be her skills as a materials scientist and atmospheric physicist. She currently works at the Italian National Research Council and will continue her work there while undergoing training.

Commenting on her selection, Christian said it was surreal learning she had been selected.


“It’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time,” she said.

“Being able to advance research in these highly technological fields (and) putting forward important scientific research. I think every kid wants to be an astronaut — it started back when I was a kid as well.”

The head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, congratulated Christian on her achievement, saying that it was a “remarkable outcome”.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to know there’s opportunities like this,” he said.

The Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, also commented on Christian’s selection.

“Dr Christian’s selection is further evidence of the extraordinary scientific talent that we generate through our education and university system here in Australia,” he said.

“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.”


Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.

Send Liam an email at: [email protected]

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