Samantha Cristoforetti, born in Milan, Italy on April 26, 1977, is a standout even among extraordinary people. She's a seasoned astronaut and was a captain in the Italian Air Force. In 2022 she is the commander of Expedition 68 to the International Space Station, and has gone into space for four additional missions.

Cristoforetti graduated in 2001 from the Technical University Munich, Germany, having earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering with specialisations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures. As part of her degree studies, she also spent time at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, working on an experimental project in aerodynamics. Her degree thesis was in solid rocket propellants which she wrote in a 10-month research stay at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Moscow, Russia.

After graduation, Cristoforetti joined the Italian Air Force. She was admitted to the Air Force Academy as an officer candidate and served as class leader for four years. As part of the training, she completed a bachelor's degree in aeronautical sciences at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. Following graduation, she attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program in the USA where she earned her fighter pilot wings. She logged over 500 hours, flying six types of military aircraft.

In 2017, together with fellow ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, she took part in a sea survival exercise organised by the Astronaut Center of China in the Yellow Sea. This was the first joint training of Chinese and non-Chinese astronauts in China. In 2019 Samantha served as commander for NASA’s 23rd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO23) mission on a 10-day stay in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius.

Although Cristoforetti has a passion for science and technology, she is also an avid reader with in interest in humanities. She, of course, speaks Italian, but also speaks English, German, French, Russian and Chines. Her husband is an astronaut trainer and they have two children.

[Source: European Space Agency]

Mona Evans
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