ESA Italian astronaut Cristoforetti becomes first European female ISS commander

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Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will soon be the commander of the International Space Station (ISS), the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Wednesday.

Cristoforetti will take the helm from the current commander, Russian Oleg Artemyev, to become the first European woman to hold this position.

“I am humbled by my appointment to the position of commander,” said Samantha, who has been on the ISS since beginning her Minerva mission in April.

“I look forward to drawing on the experience I’ve gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit.” Cristoforetti, who is in space for the second time, will officially become commander following a traditional handover ceremony which centres around the symbolic passing of a key from the previous commander on 28 September.

“Congratulations Samantha,” said Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Giorgio Saccoccia.

“Her appointment is a reason for special pride for Italy and Europe.

“As the first European woman to hold the position of commander of the International Space Station, Samantha will once again be a source of inspiration for young generations”.

The 45-year-old became Italy’s first woman astronaut during her first mission in 2014/2015.

Upon taking her new role, she will become the fifth European commander of the Space Station, following in the footsteps of previous ESA astronauts Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst, Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet. She will also become the first European female to occupy the position.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. ESA/NASA

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