Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti: the ISS is a “glimmer of hope” | Science | In-depth science and technology reporting | DW
On Earth, the situation is dire. Russia bombs civilian and military targets in Ukraine. In space, however, cosmonauts work side by side with European Union astronauts. This cooperation will continue when Samantha Cristoforetti lifts off for the International Space Station (ISS) later this month.
Cristoforetti is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and will be launched into space with three other crew members as part of the Minerva mission in late April. During a mission press conference on Monday, she stressed that the conflict on the ground has no bearing on how astronauts and cosmonauts work together in space, 400 kilometers (248 miles) above. above the Earth.
“This gives me the opportunity to reassure everyone that, on the space station, the current crew are doing very well, and they continue to be not only colleagues but good friends on board. And I expect the same for our crew,” Cristoforetti said. . “As I’ve said many times, you need to focus on what you have in common, not what divides you, when you have a mission to accomplish.”
Italy’s first female astronaut also stressed the importance of the ISS as an example of peaceful international cooperation in troubled times.
“It’s a beacon of hope, it’s a beacon of peace, it’s a beacon of international understanding,” Cristoforetti said. “It’s been like that since the beginning, and I think it continues like that today.”
Cristoforetti in leadership position aboard the ISS
Astronauts on the Minerva mission are scheduled to launch into space on April 21 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with a backup date of April 23 if conditions warrant. Cristoforetti’s crew consists of Commander Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watson, all NASA astronauts. The name of the mission refers to the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, who was also a warrior and protector of crafts and the arts.
It was Cristoforetti who chose the name, in honor of the craftsmanship of the women and men whose hard work makes spaceflight possible.
Once on board the ISS, the Italian astronaut will direct the American orbital segment, in charge of all activities within the American, European, Japanese and Canadian modules of the space station.
Working with a robot arm and other experiments
Minerva will be Cristoforetti’s second time on the ISS, following a 2014-15 mission, and she’s excited about her return.
“I can’t wait to have a second experience,” she said. “You’re not so overwhelmed by the impressions, the emotions and the whole experience anymore. You can slow it down in your mind and really enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to experiencing this as an experienced flyer and no longer as a than a beginner.”
During her mission, she will conduct experiments and research in various fields, including that of the effects of microgravity on ovarian cells, which may in the future aid in the medical treatment of ovarian-related diseases here on Earth.
During her last mission, Cristoforetti became the first astronaut to brew espresso in space. This time around, she’s bringing olive oil to the ISS with her — some for an experiment to see how the quality of oil changes in space, and some just to give it a flavor. “taste of home,” she said.
The astronaut, who holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, with specializations in aerospace propulsion and light structures, will also work with the European robotic arm, which was sent to the ISS last summer.
The robotic arm can handle components weighing up to 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds) with an accuracy of 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) and can be operated from inside and outside the space station.
Long-time resident of space
In her previous mission, Futura, Cristoforetti was on the space station from fall 2014 to spring 2015. She was in space for 200 days, which made her the female astronaut with the longest uninterrupted space mission since some time. She is also the ESA astronaut with the second longest uninterrupted time in space, behind fellow Italian Luca Parmitano – who beat her by just one day.