HomeAstronomy & SpaceESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti becomes the first European female ISS commander

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti becomes the first European female ISS commander

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Samantha Cristoforetti, an ESA astronaut, will take over as commander of the International Space Station soon, succeeding fellow Expedition 67 crew member Oleg Artemyev.

Samantha has served as the lead of the United States Orbital Segment (USOS) since the start of her Minerva mission in April 2022, overseeing activities in the station’s US, European, Japanese, and Canadian modules and components.

She will be the fifth European commander of the International Space Station, following in the footsteps of previous ESA astronauts Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst, Luca Parmitano, and Thomas Pesquet. She will also be the first female European to hold the position.

“I am humbled by my appointment as commander,” Samantha says, “and look forward to drawing on my experience in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit.”

Samantha’s outlook is shared by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. “Samantha’s selection as commander exemplifies the trust and value our international partners place in ESA astronauts. Throughout her Minerva mission, she has made significant contributions to the Station’s scientific and operational successes, and I am confident that it will continue to thrive under her command.”

Samantha will be sworn in as commander after a traditional handover ceremony that includes the symbolic passing of a key from the previous commander. The ceremony will be held on September 28, 2022, and will be broadcast live from the International Space Station on ESA Web TV.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker, expressed his belief that “Samantha is an excellent candidate for this position due to her wealth of knowledge and experience. As the first European woman to hold the position of commander, she pushes the envelope for female representation in the space sector yet again.”

This position’s full title is International Space Station crew commander. NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA make joint decisions to award commanderships (Canada). Frank De Winne, Head of the European Astronaut Center and ISS Program Manager, represents ESA in this selection process.

“I’m relieved that scheduling has changed in such a way that Samantha will once again be in command,” Frank says. “She has our full support in taking on this critical leadership role. There is no doubt that her leadership will ensure the mission’s continued success.”

This position is critical to the Space Station’s long-term success. While flight directors in the control centres oversee the planning and execution of Station operations, the Station’s commander is in charge of the crew’s performance and well-being in orbit, as well as maintaining effective communication with teams on Earth and coordinating the crew response in the event of an emergency. Samantha will take command in the final weeks of her stay on board, and one of her main responsibilities will be to ensure a smooth and thorough handover to the next expedition crew.

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