Samantha Cristoforetti, 45-year old Italian astronaut, is soon going to become the Commander of the International Space Station, the international research lab orbiting around Earth. She will be the first ever European woman to cover this role. On September 28th, an official ceremony with the passing of the title from her predecessor, Oleg Artemyev, will take place. It will be live-streamed on the European Space Agency’s channels.
Cristoforetti, also known as AstroSamantha on social media, has become in recent years a beloved public figure in the country. Part of her success amongst public opinion is also due to her active social media presence, where she shares photos and videos meant to inform and involve the public, and especially young generations, in the station’s activities and on life in space. The mission she is currently involved in is her second aboard the ISS. The mission, named Minerva, is meant to last 6 months, between April and October 2022. It is named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and protector of the artisans, as a tribute to the people that have made space explorations involving human beings possible in the last decades.
In her new role as station commander, Cristoforetti will be responsible for the work of the crews that will work on the station, where several scientific experiments are conducted, taking advantage of the lack of gravity.
But who is AstroSamantha and how did she become the first European woman to command the ISS?
Cristoforetti was born in Milan in 1977, but grew up in a small village in the Alps called Malè. After graduating from a science-focused high school, she studied mechanical engineering in Munich, Germany, and then attended the Italian Air Force Academy (Accademia Aeronautica) in the Naples’ area. Between 2005 and 2006 she obtained the qualification of war pilot, and was then nominated Captain of the Italian Air Force. She left this institution at the end of 2019. In her training as an astronaut, she said her military background in the Air Force was essential. She was selected by the European Space Agency in 2009 and, five years later, she joined her first space mission.
When she undertook her first mission, in 2014, Cristoforetti was the first Italian woman to travel to space, and the 7th Italian astronaut in the history of space exploration. In total, Cristoforetti’s first mission lasted 200 days between November 2014 and June 2015. In 2021 the European Space Agency, the Institution that Cristoforetti works for, announced that she was going to take part in a new mission this year. She left the Earth again on April 27, 2022.
When she is in space, Cristoforetti lively curates her social media profiles on Twitter and TikTok, where she shares photos and video materials from the International Space Station. She shares different kinds of content, ranging from explanations about how the space station works, with its characteristics and its physics, to what life in space looks like, from meals to bedtime routine, from working out to washing one’s hair and taking pictures.
Moreover, numerous are the images she shares of impressive natural phenomena, from aurora borealis to massive storms. She also devotes special attention to the consequences of climate change on the landscapes that she sees. More generally, by following her one can get generally breathtaking views of the Earth and space. Samantha Cristoforetti has also written a book, Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut (2018).