Captain Samantha Cristoforetti is a fighter pilot, engineer, and holder of the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight of a European astronaut.
Born in Milan, Italy she completed her secondary education at the Liceo Sceintifico in Trento, Italy spending a year in the U.S. as an exchange student, even getting to visit Space Camp while she was there. Graduating in 2001 from the Technische Universität in Munich, Germany she earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with specialization in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures.
While working on this degree, Cristoforetti spent four months in Toulouse, France at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace working on an experimental project in aerodynamics. Her thesis focused on solid rocket propellants that she researched over ten months at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Russia.
In the same year she earned her master’s degree she also joined the Italian Air Force Academy, graduating in 2005. After earning her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical sciences she was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in the United States as part of a Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program and became a fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force. Returning to Italy she continued her fighter pilot training and has logged over 500 flying hours in six types of military aircraft.
Selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009, three years later she was assigned to an Italian Space Agency ASI mission aboard the International Space Station. Launching in November 2014 she joined the crew aboard the ISS for the Futura Mission. While on board she performed numerous scientific experiments simulating prolonged stays in space as well as researching how Spirulina algae can be a source of food while it underwent photosynthesis in a recycled air environment.
Cristoforetti was part of the outreach program “Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut” where 8-12 year old students were challenged to get fit during nine weeks while she trained in space. Returning to Earth just hours shy of a 200 day mission, Cristoforetti also holds the record for the longest stay in space for a woman.
Written by Angela Goad