ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti Becomes First Female European Commander Of ISS

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first female European Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, September 28. A ‘Change of Command’ ceremony was held in the orbital laboratory at 15:35 CEST (7:05 pm IST) on Wednesday, following which Cristoforetti took over as station commander from fellow Expedition 67 crew member Oleg Artemyev, a Roscosmos cosmonaut. The leadership change took place a week before cosmonauts Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov, who have been living on the space station since March 18, return to Earth. 

The departure of the three cosmonauts to the space station will mark the end of Expedition 67, and the beginning of Expedition 68. Cristoforetti was launched to the orbital outpost as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission, in April 2022. This is Cristoforetti’s second space mission, and is called ‘Minerva’.

Samantha Cristoforetti’s Roles During Minerva Mission

Since the beginning of the Minerva mission, Cristoforetti has served as lead of the United States Orbital Segment (USOS). She has been overseeing activities in the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the space station. 

Samantha Cristoforetti’s Responsibilities As Space Station Commander

Cristoforetti is the fifth European Commander of the space station, and the first European female to occupy the position. Before her, the European astronauts who served as space station commander were ESA astronauts Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst, Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet. 

The International Space Station Crew Commander is responsible for the performance and well-being of the crew in the orbital laboratory, maintaining effective communication with the teams on Earth, and coordinating the crew response in case of emergencies, ESA says on its website. One of the major duties of Samantha as space station commander will be to ensure a smooth and comprehensive handover to the next expedition crew. 

Cristoforetti, along with fellow Crew-4 astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, will depart the space station in October, 2022. 

More About Cristoforetti

Cristoforetti was born on April 26, 1977, in Milan, Italy. She is an avid reader with a passion for science and technology, and enjoys learning foreign languages. Occasionally, she finds the time to hike, scuba dive, or practise yoga. 

Cristoforetti recently practised yoga on the space station, and a yoga platform called Cosmic Kids shared the video of the same on Twitter and YouTube. Quoting Cosmic Kids’ tweet, Cristoforetti said that ‘Yoga in weightlessness’ is a ‘bit tricky’, but with the right poses and some creative freedom, one can do it.

Cristoforetti has been a very prolific tweeter from space. She has frequently updated the people on Earth about a wide variety of interesting science activities carried out by her and her fellow astronauts at the space station. 

Cristoforetti was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009, and joined the space agency in September the same year. In November 2010, she completed her basic astronaut training, following which she became an ESA reserve astronaut, allowing her to earn initial qualifications in extravehicular activities and robotics, and certification as flight engineer of the Russian spacecraft Soyuz. 

On November 23, 2014, Cristoforetti was launched to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. She returned to Earth on June 11, 2015, after spending 200 days in space. 

Cristoforetti returned to the ISS for her second mission, Minerva, on April 27, 2022. She frequently clicks pictures of Earth from the space station and posts them on social media for the world to see. Recently, she conducted tests on a medical device called rHEALTH ONE biomedical analyser on the ISS. It is a portable device that uses laser technology to diagnose illness or injury of astronauts, and monitor their health. 

When not travelling for work, Cristoforetti lives with her partner Lionel Ferra and their two children, Kelsi Amel and Dorian Lev, near ESA’s Astronaut Centre in Germany.

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