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The first Italian woman in Space in November 2014

Announcing the launch of Captain Samantha Cristoforetti, member of ESA's astronaut corps: she will fly to the ISS on the Soyuz, Expedition 42/43

The first "space" mission of an Italian woman is officially on the agenda. Just over a couple of years remain: Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti, from Milan, born in 1977 and member of ESA's Astronaut Corps since 2009, will fly on a Soyuz from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) to the International Space Station at the end of November 2014 with the Expedition 42/43.

The announcement was made this morning during a crowded press conference at the headquarters of the Italian Space Agency in Rome: "With Samantha - said the ASI president, Enrico Saggese – who will fly a year after the flight of Luca Parmitano, we surpass the French for the number of manned missions, becoming the second in Europe behind Russia".

"The confirmation of the launch date for Samantha - said Saggese – is testimony to a very successful journey in which our country has managed to create a system and to raise international attention. I wish to point out with pride that there are four Italians at present in the ESA astronaut Corps".

The opportunity for Cristoforetti, who, flying after Parmitano, will be the seventh Italian astronaut to fly in space, was made possible thanks to the agreement between the Italian Space Agency and NASA to allow the Italian astronauts to fly, training in the European Space Agency astronaut corps.

"It's a great satisfaction - said Thomas Reiter, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations - to see the third European astronaut of the 2009 recruitment class assigned to a new mission in space".

"To Samantha - added Martin Zell of ESA - that over the next two years will certainly be very busy, we extend our very best wishes".

"It's a success - said General Gianni Candotti of the Air Force speaking at the conference - for the Italian training system and the Air Force, of which Captain Cristoforetti is a product, is a success of captain Cristoforetti and a success - I would say – of the Italy system".

After this dream comes true "another, perhaps smaller, still remains - said Captain Cristoforetti -: a 'spacewalk' outside the ISS".

The announcement of the Captain Cristoforetti launch coincides with 20 years of flight by Franco Malerba, first Italian astronaut to reach space with the STS-46 Atlantis mission, followed in 1996 by Maurizio Cheli mission specialist and Umberto Guidoni payload specialist of the STS-75 Columbia mission. Guidoni was also the first ESA astronaut to visit the International Space Station in 2001 aboard the STS-100 of Endeavour.

Colonel Roberto Vittori, with 35d 12h 26m in space, was the first European astronaut to become commander of the Soyuz, reaching the ISS on three occasions: in 2002 with Soyuz TM-34, in 2005 with Soyuz TMA-6, and in 2011 with the STS-134 Endeavour mission.

However the record on Station goes to Paolo Nespoli, twice in space with the STS-120 Discovery in 2007 and long-duration mission on the Soyuz TMA-20 in 2010. The latter mission similar to that which will be carried out in 2013 by Major Luca Parmitano, on his first space flight to the space lab.

You can follow the activities of Samantha Cristoforetti on:

- Twitter: @AstroSamantha

- Flickr: AstroSamantha

- Google+: Samantha Cristoforetti

- Blog ESA: http://blogs.esa.int/astronauts/