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Cristoforetti becomes first European woman to command ISS

'Honour to represent Italy in space' says Milanese astronaut

(ANSA) - ROME, SEP 28 - Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on Wednesday became the first European woman to command the International Space Station (ISS).
    European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Cristoforetti took the helm from the previous commander, Russian Oleg Artemyev, taking a ceremonial brass key from him.
    The 45-year-old became Italy's first woman astronaut during her first mission in 2014/2015.
    She is only the fifth European commander of the ISS and the second Italian after Luca Parmitano in 2019-21.
    Cristoforetti, a hugely popular figure nicknamed AstroSam, said "a big thank you to Italy and all the Italia men and women who have always supported me and followed me on this mission with affection.
    "It is an honour and a privilege to represent Italy here in space. If I am here today it is thanks to the great commitment which our country has achieved and still achieves in the space field".
    DRessed in a blue t-shirt and grey trousers, her hair longer than usual, Cristoforetti thanked Artemyev for his command and generosity.
    "I wish you a happy return to Earth in the next few hours," she said to the ex-commander and his two crew mates, Denis Matveev e Sergey Korsakov, who are expected to touch down in a Soyuz at nine a.m. Italian time Thursday.
    "It's a pleasure and an honour to stay with you and to continue to work with you," she told her colleagues on Crew 4, who came to the ISS with her.
    The past and present crew saluted her as "commander" before a round of applause and the traditional sound of the bell that concluded the ceremony.
    When the appointment was announced earlier this month, Cristoforetti said "I am humbled by my appointment to the position of commander." The Milan-born astronaut has been on the ISS since beginning her Minerva mission in April.
    "I look forward to drawing on the experience I've gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit." said Cristoforetti, who is in space for the second time.
    "Congratulations Samantha," said Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Giorgio Saccoccia on September 14.
    "Her appointment is a reason for special pride for Italy and Europe.
    "As the first European woman to hold the position of commander of the International Space Station, Samantha will once again be a source of inspiration for young generations". (ANSA).


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