AstroSamantha has come back home. The ESA Italian astronaut, who’s been a member of the Crew-4 crew on the International Space Station since last April 27th, with the Minerva mission, has ended her second experience on the space outpost.
Watch the video on Samantha’s return
On October 14th, the four astronauts wore their spacesuits and took a seat inside the Dragon Freedom shuttle, waiting for the closure of the hatch, which took place at 4:20 PM. Later on, at 6:05 PM, the capsule completed the automated undocking procedure, the detachment from the International Space Station, and started the actual re-entry stage. The long-awaited splashdown was confirmed at 10:55 PM, off the coasts of Florida; this type of re-entry had never been tried before by the six Italian astronauts who preceded Samantha in the missions on the space outpost.
After the routine checks and the NASA press conference, Samantha left to Cologne for the post-mission recovery stage at the European Astronaut Centre. Cristoforetti landed in the afternoon of October 15th at the airport of the German city and was welcomed by a first-class committee, made up of the ESA director general Josef Aschbacher, the ASI president Giorgio Saccoccia, the DLR director Walther Pelzer, the ISS programs and EAC head Frank De Winne, the consul general in Cologne Luis Cavalieri, the ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, the ESA head of human and robotic exploration David Parker and the air commodore Fabio Giunchi, who was in charge of organizing the astronaut’s return flight.
On October 12th, at 4:05 PM, Samantha and her colleagues Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins attended the farewell ceremony and Cristoforetti passed the command of the Station to the new commander, the Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev. “It was a short, but intense command – said Samantha -, I was lucky to have this opportunity. It was a pleasure, a honor and a privilege to share this experience with you, thanks everyone”.
Last September 28th, AstroSamantha took command of the “cosmic house”, taking over from the Russian cosmonaut of Expedition 67 Oleg Artemyev, thus becoming the first Italian and European female astronaut to lead the ISS. Minerva, Cristoforetti’s second mission on the Iss after the ASI Futura mission in 2014, started on April 27th, 2022, with the lift-off of the Crew-4 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. From that moment on, AstroSamantha has been participating in an intense scientific activity and working on several experiments, including six Italian Space Agency experiments in different fields: health, neuroscience, radiations and feeding.
Since the start of the Minerva mission, Samantha has been in charge of the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), monitoring the activity in the U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Station. Last July 21st, Cristoforetti also completed her first spacewalk, becoming the first European female astronaut to perform an extravehicular activity.