NASA astronaut Dr Kate Rubins touches down in Aotearoa to share her out-of-this-world adventures with young Kiwis

Doctor Kate Rubins is the definition of a modern woman - she's the first person to sequence DNA in space.

Touching down in Aotearoa this week was another first for her and she's here to inspire the next generation to pursue a career in space exploration.

Dr Rubins is no stranger to out-of-this-world experiences. She's spent a total of 300 days in space, the fourth-most by any US female astronaut - and the stories she shares are extraordinary.

"I would fly around the planet for 90 minutes, put some headphones in, listen to some music, just watch the Earth through a full cycle of night and day and do one complete orbit of the Earth through the windows."

But there's a lot more to the job than cruising around planet Earth at 28,000 km/h.

"We work on a variety of things from scientific experiments to space station maintenance to cargo unloading, and every now and then a spacewalk," she told Newshub. 

She says, as anyone can imagine, spacewalks are thrilling but a little terrifying.

"At night you're sort of stepping into the void and during the day you look down and 400km below you is the planet."

With a background in microbiology, Dr Rubins' speciality is science and she has high praise for New Zealand's contribution to the industry. 

"New Zealand is really at the forefront. They're pushing some of the boundaries for the small satellite launches and they're a signatory to the Artemis accords, which is something NASA started to bring together a lot of nations."

Now she's sharing her adventures with the next generation, getting more than 700 tamariki in Tauranga excited about a future in space.

"For me it's one of the best parts of jobs, getting to talk to school kids. They have the most creative things and it just shows you what these young minds are capable of."

She said it's also important to her to fly the flag for women, highlighting the importance of diversity within space exploration.

"If they can bring all of that to a team we're going to be so much stronger. Because we have these diverse perspectives, we're going to make better decisions and we're going to be more creative and innovative."

And she has a message for young girls in particular.

"You belong. You belong in the sciences, maths and engineering and we want you here."

The conference is a giant leap towards inspiring the next generation to reach the stars.