During an official ceremony on the International Space station, Cristoforetti will take over command of the ISS from Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev on Wednesday, September 28. Cristoforetti is the fifth European astronaut to command the ISS — and Europe’s first female to do so.
The ceremony also marks the end of Expedition 67, which Artemyev led.
“I am humbled by my appointment to the position of commander,” said Cristoforetti, “and I look forward to drawing on the experience I’ve gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit.“
Space station a beacon of peace
Cristoforetti takes command of the ISS at a tense time on Earth, with the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict and fuel and food crises on Earth.
But in space Russian cosmonauts work side-by-side with astronauts from the European Union and the USA.
In a press conference about mission 67 in April, Cristoforetti emphasized that the conflict on the ground had no bearing on how astronauts and cosmonauts worked together in space, 400 kilometers (248 miles) above Earth.
“This gives me the opportunity to reassure everyone that, on the space station, the current crew is working really well, and they keep on being not only colleagues but good friends on board. And I expect the same for our crew,” Cristoforetti said in May.
“As I’ve said many times, you have to focus on what you have in common, not what divides you, when you have a mission to accomplish,” she said.
The Italian astronaut also pointed out the importance of the ISS as an example of peaceful international cooperation during troubled times.
“It’s a beacon of hope, it’s a beacon of peace, it’s a beacon of international understanding,” Cristoforetti said. “It has been so since the beginning, and I think it continues to be so today.”
Changeover from expedition 67 to 68
Expedition 67, also called the Minerva mission, was Cristoforetti’s second stint on the ISS. She has been aboard the ISS since April and is set to return to Earth in October, but dates may change.
ESA says Cristoforetti takes command for “the final weeks of her stay on-board,” before cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev becomes commander of Expedition 68.
Half of the Expedition 68’s crew left Earth on September 21 on a Soyuz MS-22 rocket launched from Kazakhstan, with Frank Rubio of NASA, and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos onboard.
In her new role as ISS commander, Cristoforetti will conduct operations on the ISS, responsible for the crews that will work on the station.
She will work closely with the flight director and their team of flight controllers on Earth to make sure operations run smoothly and safely.
Work with a robot arm and biomedical research
In the last 6 months, Cristoforetti has been busy with scientific research and engineering tasks.
Cristoforetti, who holds a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, with specializations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures, worked with a European Robotic Arm.
The robotic arm can handle components up to 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds) with 5-millimeter (0.2-inch) precision and can be operated from inside and outside the space station.
Cristoforetti also performed biomedical research, testing a Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Laboratory Technology for Humans (rHEALTH) ONE biomedical analyzer.
rHEALTH can assess biological changes that can affect astronauts who live for prolonged periods in space, including blood clots and radiation exposure. Cristoforetti was the first person to test the device in May 2022.
During her first mission in 2014, Cristoforetti famously became the first astronaut to brew espresso in space. This time around, she took olive oil to the ISS ― some for an experiment to see how the quality of the oil changes in space and some simply to give her a “taste of home,” she said.
Edited by: Zulfikar Abbany
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