Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, born on 26 April 1977 in Milan, has just made history: she is the first Italian woman to become Commander of the International Space Station. She always dreamed of reaching the skies and is an avid science-fiction fan from her childhood years. Travelling and learning languages was part of Samantha’s education, starting with a year spent in the USA at high school. In 2001, she graduated from the Technische Universität Munich, Germany, with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and specialisations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures. As part of her studies, she spent four months at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, working on an experimental project in aerodynamics. She wrote her master’s thesis on solid rocket propellants during a 10-month research stay at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Moscow, Russia.
Samantha’s technical degrees and proven skills in mastering high-tech machines coupled with her aptitude for languages and enthusiasm for travelling make her an ideal astronaut candidate. In 2009 she was one of the six chosen from 8000 European applicants to join the ESA astronaut corps. In 2012 Samantha was assigned to the Futura mission. Travelling the world as part of her astronaut training, she had a head start as she already spoke German, French, English and Russian. Always looking to the future, Samantha is learning Chinese in her spare time.
In a recent press briefing, Samantha Cristoforetti, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker and President of the Italian space agency ASI Giorgio Saccoccia announced Samantha will travel to the Station in spring 2022, following ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. Training for Samantha’s second mission is already under way and has included International Space Station refresher sessions at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In the coming months, her schedule will intensify as she brushes up on Space Station systems and procedures and trains for the specific experiments and tasks she will perform in space.
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