ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti becomes the first European woman commander of the International Space Station

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ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will soon take on the role of commander of the International Space Station, succeeding fellow Expedition 67 Oleg Artemyev.

Samantha Cristoforetti

Since beginning her mission at Minerva in April 2022, Samantha has served as the United States Orbital Segment (USOS) Commander, overseeing activities in US, European, Japanese and Canadian units and components.

Upon taking up her new role, she will become the fifth European commander of the space station, following in the footsteps of former ESA astronauts Frank De Winn, Alexander Gerst, Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet. She will also become the first European woman to hold this position.

“I am humbled by my appointment to the position of Commander, and I look forward to drawing on the experience I have gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit,” Samantha says.

ESA Director General Joseph Ashbacher shares Samantha for a look ahead. “Samantha’s choice of leadership clearly demonstrates the faith and value our international partners place on ESA astronauts. During her mission at Minerva, she has contributed significantly to the station’s scientific and operational successes, and I expect it to continue to thrive under her leadership.”

Samantha performs acoustic diagnostics aboard the International Space Station

Samantha will become an official captain after a traditional handover ceremony centered around the symbolic passing of a key from the previous captain. The ceremony itself will take place on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, and will be broadcast live from the International Space Station on ESA Web TV.

David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, shared his view that “Samantha’s wealth of knowledge and experience makes her an excellent candidate for this role. As the first European woman to hold the position of Commander, she is once again pushing the boundaries forward for female representation in the space sector.”

The full title for this role is International Space Station Crew Commander. Leadership positions are awarded based on joint decisions made by NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), European Space Agency (Europe), and Canadian Space Agency (Canada). The European Space Agency is represented in this selection process by Frank de Winn, President of the European Astronaut Center and Program Director of the International Space Station.

“I’m glad the scheduling has changed in such a way that Samantha is once again set to take the lead,” Frank says. She retains our full support to fulfill this important leadership role. There is no doubt that her leadership will ensure the mission’s continued success.”

Samantha Cristoforetti

This position is vital to the space station’s continued success. While flight managers in control centers head the planning and execution of station operations, the station commander is responsible for the performance and welfare of the crew in orbit, maintaining effective communication with teams on the ground, and coordinating the crew’s response in the event of an emergency. As Samantha takes command in the final weeks of her stay on board, one of her main duties will be to ensure a smooth and thorough delivery for the crew of the next expedition.

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