International Women's Day

Food For The Stars: Kristine Atienza, the First Filipino Analog Astronaut

Photo by Jerick Sanchez

Kristine Atienza captured public attention as the first Filipino analog astronaut, specializing in space nutrition.

Kristine Atienza appears in Vogue Philippines’ March 2024 issue, themed “Raising Hope” in the spirit of International Women’s Month. Visit everyday this month for daily features on inspiring women, as nominated by the people whose lives they’ve changed.

“Analog mission is a simulation of deep space exploration,” Kristine Jane Atienza explains. The public health nutritionist made headlines in 2023 when she became the first Filipino analog astronaut. She spent six days in November 2023 on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawai’i as part of the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) simulation of the Martian conditions.

People from all walks of life can take part in this adventure. But far from just playing astronauts for a week or more, an analog mission is a crucial research method to test and investigate aspects of crewed space missions, how certain instruments work in extreme environments, particularly the human “instruments.”

For her almost-week-long mission, Kristine took on the roles of nutrition specialist and medical officer. Basically, she was in charge of food preparation and checking the crew’s calorie intake, as well as their well-being.

She, however, didn’t join this mission because she wanted to become an astronaut. She wanted to become an astronomer. But then the universe had other plans.

Kristine’s first love is Astronomy. “I learned my planets before I learned my ABCs,” she shares. “Astronomy, in my opinion, is the greatest way to get into the sciences. It’s very visual and it opens your mind.”

In college, she started studying Applied Physics in the College of Science in the University of the Philippines Diliman, but shifted courses midway. “I just lacked self-confidence before,” she confesses, adding that she landed in Nutrition without much thought. But she remained a member of the UP Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) to still keep on doing what she loved.

Photo by Jerick Sanchez

She had planned on leaving Nutrition behind after graduation and pursuing something totally different from it for her post-graduate studies. However, she was invited by an international humanitarian agency to be a volunteer. “Since I wasn’t doing anything anyway, I signed up,” Kristine says. But through that experience, she saw a vocation in public health nutrition. This is why she continued her career in humanitarian development in public health.

But much like her university career, being a public health nutritionist did not keep her from her interests in the skies beyond. The 32-year-old remained active in the astronomy and space communities, joined conferences, and was even executive secretary of the Space Generation Advisory Council and part of many other organizations in the field.

“Humanitarian work keeps my feet on the ground while I look up in the sky,” she says.

She describes her seemingly disparate pursuits as her “night and day jobs.” While similarly demanding, she loves both of them. “Someday, I’ll link my passion for space and astronomy to what I do,” Atienza says. “I think that’s my edge. I have these two seemingly different fields that I can connect. Hopefully, in the long run, I’ll have more skills, more knowledge, and I can tie them up together.” And this led her to an even more niche field: Space Nutrition.

Through her active participation, Kristine met astronomy and space enthusiasts from all over the world. That was when she met analog astronauts and fellow nutritionists and enthusiasts in Europe who are also interested in space nutrition.

As she and her friends started doing studies in space nutrition, they joined different analog missions as researchers for a paper she is writing. “Eventually I applied as an analog astronaut with the aim to just make my study better,” Atienza continues. “I just wanted to find out what happens in a mission so I can tweak my study and make it better.”

To what end? “I don’t know!” she admits. “It’s very niche, even for my European peers. I just wanted to know things on my own. I also wanted to bring new knowledge here [to the Philippines and Southeast Asia.]

“It’s a privilege for me to still do and pursue the things that I love even if my line of work is different. For me, it’s costly, but I love it. And I see to it that I bring something back,” Kristine says. “The most important thing is that the Philippines gets exposure and to show the world that we’re doing something.”

Vogue Philippines: March 2024 Issue


By STEF JUAN. Photographs by JERICK SANCHEZ. Beauty Editor: JOYCE OREÑA. Stylist: MJ Benitez. Makeup: Ann Parba of M.A.C Cosmetics. Hair: Noel Muncada of Toni&Guy Philippines. Talent: Kristine Atienza. Beauty Writer: Bianca Custodio. Art Direction: Gabbi Constantino. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza. Production Assistant: Patricia Co. Photographer’s Assistants: Ralph Suba, Roniel Sañez. Stylist’s Assistant: Teresita Gabat. Makeup Assistant: Sharmaine Manalo.

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