Selected by the European Space Agency in 2009 (the same selection as Thomas Pesquet), the Italian Samantha Cristoforetti is currently carrying out Minerva, its second mission after Futura in 2014-15.
She therefore stays again on board the Station Spatiale Internationale (ISS)but this time, she assumes command 5 months after her arrival.
Although this former Italian Air Force pilot knows the ISS well, her second mission up there has some notable differences. First, Samantha Cristoforetti traveled aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule (with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins) to reach the orbital complex at the end of April 2022 (instead of a Soyuz) . Then, on July 22, she became the first European woman to complete a spacewalk. A first that called for another: on September 28, the Russian commander in title Oleg Artemyev, symbolically handed him the “key” to the ISS, marking the transmission of the responsibility of being at the head of the crew (video NASA below).
With this ceremony, one of the traditions of the station, Samantha Cristoforetti becomes the first European woman to command the ISS. Four ESA astronauts preceded her (Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst, Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet). The Italian is also the fourth female commander of the ISS after the Americans Peggy Whitson (who held the post twice), Sunita Williams and Shannon Walker.
From Expedition 67 to 68
Samantha Cristoforetti thus took over from Oleg Artemyev who returned to Earth on September 29 with his compatriots Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov aboard the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft (video summary below).
The ESA astronaut therefore commands the station at an important moment, that of moving from one Expedition to another, in this case from 67 to 68. The crew changeover with the Roscosmos agency vessels has already been completed since the Soyuz MS-22 which arrived on September 21 had brought the Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin accompanied of the American Frank Rubio (under an exchange of seats with NASA). Soon, at the earliest on October 5 due to a postponement imposed by Hurricane Ian in Florida, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance capsule will transport Americans Nicole Aunapu Mann and Josh Cassada to the ISS with Japanese Koichi Wakata and the Russian Anna Kikina (still under the seat exchange between NASA and Roscosmos).
The arrival of this quartet from American soil will be followed a few days later by the return to Earth of Samantha Cristoforetti and her flight colleagues (Lindgren, Hines and Watkins) aboard their Crew Dragon Freedom capsule. Previously, the ESA astronaut will have handed over command of the ISS to Russian Sergey Prokopyev.