After almost six months in orbit, the ESA astronaut returned to Earth on October 14th, along with the three members of the Crew-4 crew, the NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins, and ended her second mission on the International Space Station, Minerva.
The astronaut attended her first post-mission press conference, which was held on October 18th at 10:45 AM at the ESA European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne and was remotely attended by the ESA director general, Josef Aschbacher, and the president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia, whereas Frank De Winne, head of ISS programs and of the EAC, was present along with Samantha.
Samantha answered the questions from the journalists present on site and connected remotely, explaining the Crew Dragon’s re-entry stages, the unique experience of the extravehicular activity and the work ahead of her in the coming weeks. Since her arrival in Cologne, AstroSamantha performed her first tests (four hours already on the first day) and in the coming months will be busy with the data collection activities for the experiments completed during her almost six months on the space outposts.
“Welcome back Samantha – said Saccoccia -, you’re a model for the new generations, your mission has a symbolic value and it was exciting to see you working along with the other astronauts. It shows that space activities are a symbol of peace and international cooperation. You demonstrated great professionalism by conducting experiments and enhancing the work of the Italian and European scientists”.
“Samantha has done a great job with her experiments – said Aschbacher – and has communicated science in space in an excellent manner. Her mission has been studded with success and she has become the first European female astronaut to carry out an extravehicular activity and the first woman to command the International Space Station”.
“Having the opportunity to see the International Space Station again, after almost a decade, was an honour – said Samantha -, such a complex outpost has a huge value for humanity. Now there will be a few weeks of debriefing ahead of me, during which I will work on the results of the experiments that I have conducted in orbit and will remain in touch with the Crew-4 astronauts based in Houston”.
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.
Photo credits: DLR