ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all smiles after arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, last week with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins.
Collectively known as Crew-4, the astronauts flew in from Houston, Texas, USA, and are spending the days ahead in quarantine before being launched this week to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom.
“This is getting real,” said Samantha. “It’s very emotional for me, that this final stretch to the launchpad has started with the landing here, on this runway.” Samantha recalled her childhood fascination watching the Space Shuttle launches in the 1980s and her reality now: “I am landing on the Space Shuttle landing facility!”
This is the second long-duration space mission for Samantha who first flew to the orbital outpost in 2014 for her Italian Space Agency ASI-sponsored mission Futura. This year’s ESA space mission, known as Minerva, will officially begin once she reaches the Station.
Samantha will be welcomed to the Space Station by fellow ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and enjoy a short handover in orbit before Matthias returns to Earth as part of Crew-3.
Throughout her mission, Samantha will hold the role of US Orbital Segment (USOS) lead, taking responsibility for all operations within the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station. She will support around 35 European and many more international experiments in orbit.
Samantha has the honour of many ‘firsts’ in her spaceflight career. She was the first astronaut to brew a cup of coffee in space.
Her 2014 Futura mission held the record for the longest European space mission, at 199 days, until Thomas Pesquet’s mission Alpha in 2020.
Samantha was also the first astronaut to blog extensively during training and from space. Outpost 42: Earthlings’ guide to the galaxy is a treasure trove of 289 posts about living in space.
For mission Minerva, Samantha continues to trailblaze by being the first ever astronaut on social media platform TikTok, bringing space content and European research to a wider audience. Follow Samantha to go where no TikToker has gone before!