In Depth

Who is Kate Rubins? Nasa astronaut ready for first journey into space

Former virologist will attempt to carry out DNA sequencing onboard the International Space Station

Nasa astronaut Kathleen "Kate" Rubins is making final preparations for her first ever journey into space for a four-month stint in orbit on the International Space Station (ISS).

On 24 June, she and her two fellow mission members, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan's Takuya Onishi, will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft as part of Expedition 48/49.

Part of their research on the ISS will focus on DNA and they are hoping to carry out genetic sequencing in space.

"Sequencing DNA on the ISS will enable Nasa to see what happens to genetic material in space in real time, rather than looking at a snapshot of DNA before launch and another snapshot of DNA after launch and filling in the blanks," Rubins told Scientific American.

Rubins, Ivanishin and Onishi are scheduled to return to Earth on 30 October, after four months aboard the space station.

Born in Connecticut, Rubins grew up in Napa, California, and studied molecular biology at the University of California. After further studies at Stanford, she joined the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she helped develop the first model of smallpox infection.

Following this, she headed the Rubins Lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she and 14 researchers studied viral diseases affecting Central and West Africa. She was recruited into Nasa's 20th class of potential astronauts in 2009.

In 2013, she told Nature magazine that space travel was one of those "childhood dreams" of which she couldn't let go.

"I thought that Nasa didn't take biologists and so nothing would come of it," she said. "But I knew I would regret it if I did not apply."

According to her Nasa profile, Rubins enjoys "cycling, swimming, flying, scuba diving and reading", as well as parachuting alongside her husband, Michael Magnani.

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