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ASI FUTURA mission launched as Samantha Cristoforetti leaves for the International Space Station

The mission was successfully launched at 10.01 pm from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Samantha will be travelling with Russian commander Anton Shkaplerov and American Terry Virts on board the Russian Soyuz TMA-15M shuttle

23 November 2014

Soyuz Expedition 42/43, the Italian Space Agency's second long-term mission led by Samantha Cristoforetti, European Space Agency astronaut and captain of the Italian Air Force, known as the FUTURA mission, was officially launched at 10.01 (Italian time). 

This is Cristoforetti's first flight in space, where she will be staying for around six months as a member of the crew on mission ISS 42/43, helping to conduct all the research and experimental activities as well as performing operational maintenance on the space laboratory. The mission is taking place thanks to a bilateral agreement between the Italian Space Agency and NASA, under which Italy has provided the US space agency with logistics supply modules and a living space module for the orbiting outpost. 

Italian Space Agency President, Roberto Battiston, commented that “Samantha Cristoforetti is our Italian astronaut in the stars! This is great news for Italy, and the fact that she is a woman makes us doubly happy. With Samantha, Italy has confirmed our leading position, also in terms of the number of astronauts sent into space”.  

Samantha is the first female Italian astronaut and is currently the only woman in the European astronaut corps, while she is the 60th woman to travel to space. FUTURA is ASI's second long-term mission (after Luca Parmitano's VOLARE mission) and is due to return to Earth in around six months' time, with re-entry currently scheduled for May 2015. During the mission, Samantha will be involved in experiments for ESA and ASI, many of which are based on Italian know-how: as a member of the ISS crew, she will be performing a wide range of experimental activities. ASI, which is the only national space agency in Europe to have direct access to ISS resources, has selected and developed nine scientific research and Italian technology projects for Samantha Cristoforetti's mission, to be performed by our astronaut in her six month stay on the ISS, along with another project already present on the station that has already been recording data for more than three years.

Five projects will be studying various aspects of human physiology in the absence of weight, and two will be performing biological analyses on cellular samples in microgravity, while a prototype 3D printer will also be brought on board the ISS for testing an automatic process for producing 3D objects in the absence of weight along with a multifunction capsule machine capable of producing hot drinks, including the typical “Italian espresso coffee”, on board the International Space Station (ISS). The projects were designed by Italian universities, research centres, companies and SMEs, and selected by ASI through national Human Flight tenders and calls for public-private sector partnerships for using the ISS.  

Space mission ISS 42/43, with the seventh Italian astronaut and first female Italian in space, has been baptised FUTURA following a call for ideas held in November 2013 by the Italian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Italian Air Force. The “Name Samantha Cristoforetti's Mission” initiative was aimed at inviting the wider public and space enthusiasts of all ages to contribute to giving Mission ISS 42/43 an official Italian name. FUTURA was the most popular name out of more than a thousand suggestions received. The FUTURA logo was also chosen as part of a public competition, and represents a “stylised” ISS and its imaginary orbit around the Earth, against the background of a rising sun and stars. It was designed by Valerio Papeti, who has a degree in Fine Arts from Turin University.