Time.news – Samantha Cristoforetti has been nominated commander of the “Expedition 68” mission which will bring the Italian astronaut and NASA colleagues, Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines, to the International Space Station in 2022. This was announced by the European Space Agency (ESA) on its website, reporting the words of Cristoforetti herself: “Return to the International Space Station representing Europe is an honor in itself. I am honored to be appointed commander and look forward to drawing on the experience I have gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team into orbit. ” The three astronauts will be transported to the Station by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, the company of South African billionaire Elon Musk.
This will be Samantha’s second space mission, which she will become the first European woman in command of the ISS.
Samantha will be the fifth among ESA astronauts to command the International Space Station, and fourth in the astronaut class of 2009. Decisions on crew assignment and the role each astronaut plays on the Station are made by mutual agreement by Multilateral Crew Operations Panel (MCOP), which includes representatives from all five international partners: the US space agency NASA, the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Japanese aerospace exploration agency JAXA, the European Space Agency ESA and the Canadian space CSA. ESA astronaut Frank De Winne was the first European commander of the International Space Station.
He currently represents the Agency in the MCOP as head of ESA’s European Astronaut Center and says that Samantha’s appointment demonstrates the value recognized by international partners for ESA astronauts. “Although general control of the Station is entrusted to the flight directors on the ground, the commander of the Space Station works for promote team spirit among astronauts and between the crew on board and teams on earth, to make sure that everyone can give their best, “explains Frank.
“Samantha has proven to be a highly competent and trusted leader during NASA’s NEEMO23 mission, as well as in many other activities. Her experience and her way of working make her a valuable asset to ESA and our partners and I am sure she will represent us well during her mission to space. “
Samantha’s appointment comes at a significant time, when women and men from ESA member countries have the opportunity to participate in a selection for new astronauts. The application deadline has just been extended to June 18, 2021, to welcome the addition of Lithuania as an associate member of ESA. Samantha joined the ESA astronaut corps during the Agency’s latest recruitment campaign in 2008-09.
David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotics Exploration, says his career is an example of the opportunities available to current candidates. “Samantha joined us just over ten years ago as a very capable recruit. Now she is a spaceflight veteran about to take on a leadership role.” “Like many of our active astronauts, Samantha combines a challenging career and caring for her family, embracing both challenges with the full support of ESA. In recent months Samantha has often encouraged anyone who dreams of being an astronaut and meets the minimum requirements to come forward and participate in the selection “.
“I am delighted to see that Samantha’s skills, experience and hard work have been recognized with her appointment as commander of the International Space Station. I have no doubt that it will continue to inspire us to embrace new challenges and to expand our capabilities and knowledge, in space or on Earth, ”concludes Parker.