Our Team

The ad astra vita project founder – Dr Rowena Christiansen

Dr Rowena Christiansen
MB BS, BA Hons, LLB, MEmergHealth, MBA, DCH, GradDipEd, GradDipDisasterMed, ACCAM, GradCertDisasterMed, GradCertSpaceStudies, FAsMA, ISU SH-SSP16

On patrol checking a very hypothermic casualty

Dr Rowena Christiansen is proud to be the founder of the ad astra vita project and the Space Health Symposium, and is now a Co-Founder of ASBX 2021 and the International Humans in Space Summit. She has an enduring lifelong interest in astronomy and space exploration. Rowena established this initiative in the context of the entrepreneurial emphasis of the new Australian Space Agency. She hopes that promoting open access to information, resources, and outreach activities about aerospace medicine (and medicine in extreme and austere environments) will raise awareness both locally and internationally, promote networking and collaboration, and lead to more linkages and partnerships.

At the ISU SH-SSP16 “United Nations” debate
representing the Kingdom of Norway

Rowena herself has a diverse background. After a first career as as a lawyer, management consultant, and small business owner/operator, she qualified as a physician. Rowena teaches in the Melbourne Medical School, and practices as a pre-hospital emergency doctor. In 2022, she developed a new year-long MD1 ‘Discovery Subject’, “Human Health in the Space Environment“, and a four-week module on ‘Humans in Space’ for Swinburne University of Technology. She is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) and Ormond College at the University of Melbourne. Rowena has undertaken post-graduate training in emergency medicine and critical care, women and children’s health, aviation medicine and space studies, disaster health, and emergency management. She pursues special interests in aerospace medicine, extreme environments and wilderness medicine.

Working as a pre-hospital emergency response doctor

In particular, Rowena is passionate about space medicine education, outreach, and research, and mentors medical students interested in space medicine. She was the Dux of the International Space University Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program in 2016, and the recipient of the 2019-20 Aeromedical Society of Australasia Professional Development Scholarship to assist her attendance at the AsMA Annual Scientific Meeting. Rowena served two years as the Chair of the AsMA Associate Fellows Group (2018-2020). In mid-2020 Rowena was honoured to be elected as a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association. She was selected for the 2021 European Space Agency virtual Space Physician Training Course.

Her voluntary memberships include the Space Life Sciences Committee of the Australasian Society for Aerospace Medicine, and Executive Committee positions within the Space Medicine Association, the Space Surgery Association, the AsPS, and the Aerospace Human Factors Association. She is a member of the AsMA Education and Training Committee and the ‘Ad Hoc Committee on Commercial Spaceflight’. In May 2021, Rowena was elected to the AsMA Council as a Member-at-Large. She is also a Director of Mars Society Australia, Chair of the Australian Ski Patrol Association Medical Advisory Committee, a volunteer ski patroller, a representative member of the Australian Resuscitation Council, and inaugural Treasurer for the Australasian Wilderness and Expedition Medicine Society. She is a member of the Women in Space Chapter of the National Space Society of Australia, the Association of Spaceflight Professionals, ASAMS, AMSRO, a guest associate editor for Frontiers, and a reviewer for npj Microgravity and Acta Astronautica.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Rowena supported the public health response in educational (the “SURGE Project”) and community organisation advisory roles. She is a member of the Group for Earth Observations Health Community of Practice, and the UNOOSA Space and Global Health Network, and has participated in research on COVID-19 and seasonality.

Rowena is proud to have been selected as an Australian Space Awards Finalist for 2020-23 and a Finalist in the A22 Airspace Awards. She has received the AsMA Associate Fellows Group Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service three times, and the 2020-21 President’s Award from the Aerospace Physiology Society. She is the 2023 AsPS Fred A. Hitchcock Award winner.

Rowena is a strong advocate for STEAM education, gender equality and human rights. She holds appointments as the Research Director for Health Law for the Jus Ad Astra human rights in space project, and as a UNOOSA Space4Women Mentor.

Rowena is an amateur musician, chorister and percussionist, enjoys building space-themed LEGO creations, and has a love-hate relationship with complex jigsaws. She also enjoys photography, creative cooking, and learning about languages and culture.

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