ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti arrived safely at the International Space Station last night, thus becoming the first Italian woman to fly into space.
“It’s even better than what I had dreamed”, she said enthusiastically to her family, to whom she spoke from the ISS. “Everything went very well, we’ve already seen some spectacular views, the first sunrise and the stars.”
The Soyuz spacecraft that carried Samantha, Russian Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov and NASA astronaut Terry Virts to the ISS launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 22:01 CET and docked at 3:49 CET, five hours and 48 minutes after liftoff and four orbits around our planet.
Samantha’s mission is named ‘Futura’, “to highlight the science and technology research she will run in weightlessness to help shape our future”, writes the European Space Agency.
As many as 10 Italian research projects will be carried out during Samantha’s mission, including the study of multiple sclerosis, sensors that can measure heartbeat and breathing during sleep, 3D printing, and techniques for the decontamination from bacteria. Samantha, who will remain on the ISS for five months, will also be the first to prepare a real espresso in space: she will in fact test a special coffee machine devised by Lavazza and Argotec.
The Italian media have closely followed Samantha's launch into space; a special documentary aired on Saturday night on Rai Tre, documenting Samantha's three-year-long intense training in preparation for the space mission.
Samantha and her crewmates were welcomed aboard by NASA Station commander Barry Wilmore and Roscosmos cosmonauts Yelena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev.
Watch Samantha arrive on the ISS and then talk to her family in this video from NASA:
Follow Samantha on Twitter: @AstroSamantha