From a Russian commander to an Italian commander. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European to command the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday.
He succeeds Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev, who took advantage of the ceremony to allude to the conflict in Ukraine. “Despite the storms on Earth, our international cooperation continues,” he said.
At 45, the Italian fighter pilot already holds the record for the longest stay in space by a woman on a mission, with a stay of 199 days in orbit, in 2014 and 2015. She is the fifth woman, and the first non-American , to take command of the ship, since a commander was officially appointed in the year 2000.
A joint effort between the astronauts
During the informal and relaxed ceremony, Samantha Cristoforetti praised the work of her colleagues and stressed that they all form “a tiny part of the gigantic team on the ground” that directs the operations of the ISS.
Among the European astronaut corps, she is the only woman, compared to six men. However, during its last recruitment campaign, which began in 2021 and which aims to eventually renew the current contingent of astronauts, ESA has opted for an effort of parity between women and men.
Although the space station flies 400 km above the Earth autonomously, the commander is responsible for all tasks performed by station members. In an emergency, he has full authority to make decisions, without waiting for instructions from the field.
Source: BFM TV