Rowena Christiansen

Space Health and Aerospace Medicine. Founder, the ad astra vita project; Physician and Medical Educator, the University of Melbourne

Region:          Oceania

Field:              Medicine; Education


Profile:     MB BS, BA Hons, LLB, MEmergHealth, MBA, DCH, GradDipEd, GradDipDisasterMed, ACCAM, GradCertDisasterMed, GradCertSpaceStudies, FAsMA, Ormond College Fellow

Dr Rowena Christiansen was destined to have an interest in science and space. Her maternal grandfather was an Australian radio pioneer and amateur astronomer. Her father was a computer climate modelling pioneer. As an extremely curious and imaginative young child, Rowena found the Moon landings and Star Trek were very inspirational. Rowena excelled in maths and science at school, and settled on becoming an astronaut. After discovering the insurmountable roadblocks of being both Australian and female, she took a meandering career path encompassing qualifications in medicine, law, business, humanities and education, and post-graduate studies in emergency health, disaster management, anaesthetics, child health, aerospace medicine and space studies. On entering medicine, Rowena once again set her sights on space. Her yearbook entry stated she “wanted to be a doctor on the first mission to Mars”. Once again lacking a clear path for Australians, Rowena decided to upskill in medicine in austere and extreme environments as a space analog. She volunteered as a ski patroller and rapidly rose to be Chair of the Australian Medical Advisory Committee. After her first presentation at the 2015 Australian Space Research Conference, in 2016 Rowena undertook the International Space University Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (Dux), followed by a Graduate Certificate in Space Studies. Since then she has been a passionate aerospace medicine advocate, educator, and researcher, and aspires to be one of Australia’s first space physicians. In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (USA). In late 2019 Rowena founded the “ad astra vita project”, which focuses on space health and medicine in austere and extreme environments. During World Space Week 2020 she organised a successful free international virtual Space Health Symposium. Rowena is proud to mentor students with an interest in space health, and to help inspire the next generation of space professionals. She also has a lifelong strong belief in, and dedication to striving for gender equality and an ongoing commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Network Activities:

· Continue to be a role model for gender equality as an executive committee member of a number of space and aerospace medicine associations;

· Maintain an active membership of space-related special interest groups for women;

· Continue to mentor students with an interest in aerospace medicine;

· Support Space4Women mentees with their individual projects and initiatives;

· Continue to provide education, outreach and public engagement activities to inspire young people interested in the space life sciences;

· Continue to develop the ad astra vita project resources portal to facilitate open access to information about medicine in austere and extreme environments;

· Work with collaborators to develop a free online space health event to celebrate World Space Week 2021 with the theme of “Women in Space”; and

· Offer volunteer opportunities through the ad astra vita project to contribute to the further development of open access space health education and information sharing initiatives