I was born and grew up in Bucharest and fell in love with the stars at the age of 6, after seeing a diagram of the life cycle of a star in a dictionary that was so big and heavy I could barely hold with two arms. It was the spark that connected me with space and astronomy for good.
Haritina is a space science communicator.
She is passionate about telling everyone we are literally made of stardust and that is the most profound and amazing connection we have with each other. Haritina studied international security to find out what does it take for people to stop going to war, environmental management because she likes to understand the big picture knowledge of how to take care of our planet, and horticultural engineering to be able to grow plants on Mars.
Currently, Haritina is the Executive Director for the New Zealand Astrobiology Network and Senior Science Communicator for Space Place at Carter Observatory in Wellington.
Haritina is a founding board member of Kiwispace and the New Zealand Mars Society.
Astronomy and space outreach
Blogging about stargazing adventures she shared with her fellow Bucharest Astroclub got her to write for a “serious publication” — UNESCO-endorsed Science and Technology, about “what is life” in 2002. Learning that the Hubble telescope has a star tracker system on board inspired Haritina to come to New Zealand to see the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, in particular Canopus, which she did, in 2005. There, she got her first stellar job in August 2005 as a presenter at Carter Observatory where she started working on an optical Zeiss ZKP-3 planetarium projector.
Falling in love again, this time with New Zealand’s night sky, Haritina called her mum back in Romania and said: “I think I’ll stay here for a while.” She stayed because she believes this is the most beautiful sky in the world and loves being underneath it. To celebrate 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, Haritina created an astrophotography magazine, Milky Way Kiwi which now morphed into the online platform for analysis of space and astronomy issues and education: www.milky-way.kiwi
Haritina is the first New Zealander to lead an analog mission and train for living on Mars at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. She took that experience to thousands of students in Wellington and greater area and created and lead other Mars analog missions in New Zealand and abroad as well as Mars and astrobiology school projects in New Zealand.
Haritina’s Mars projects include KiwiMars2012, Tasmars 2013, World Space Week Mars Mission 2013, Spaceward Bound New Zealand 2015 and Spaceward Bound New Zealand for Youth 2016. In 2018, she lead the one-week Mars immersive project for schools, Synergies in Space.
Finalist on the NEXT Magazine Woman of the Year award 2019, finalist of the Wellingtonian of the Year award 2015, awarded the International Year of Astronomy 2009 certificate of appreciation and holds the honour of having Asteroid 7101 Haritina named after her.
Watch here Haritina talking at TEDx Christchurch in 2013.