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Australian engineer named as European astronaut

Australia’s first female astronaut will be University of New South Wales alumna Dr Meganne Christian who has been selected as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 2022 astronaut class.

Dr Christian is one of 11 reservist astronauts, alongside five career astronauts and one parastronaut, selected from more than 22,500 eligible applicants. She will actually represent the United Kingdom, having been born there and holding citizenship, but located to Australia at the age of five.

“Dr Christian’s selection is further evidence of the extraordinary scientific talent that we generate through our education and university system here in Australia,” said federal Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic.

Dr Christian is a materials scientist and atmospheric physicist. 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.

“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,” said the Head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo. “This also presents a great opportunity for Australia to build on our relationship with the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency.”

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.

“We know we need more young Australians, particularly women and people from diverse backgrounds, to enter the STEM workforce,” Minister Husic said. “Role models like Dr Christian will help show girls and young women that they can dream big.”

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