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Cristoforetti, ESA astronaut: “Space is part of our culture”

Interview

Status: 11.07.2021 9.45 am

While billionaires are currently racing in commercial spaceflight, European Space Agency astronaut Cristoforetti is preparing for her next mission to the International Space Station. She says in her book that space is becoming more and more a part of life on Earth tagesschau.de interview.

tagesschau.de: how are you and where are you now?

Samantha Cristoforetti: I feel very good, thank you. I just came from Moscow and I am now training in Houston. Here I am preparing for my mission to the International Space Station, scheduled for the spring of 2022. I have just been told for the first time of the science experiments I must conduct while on the International Space Station. In a week, I’m flying to Los Angeles – to train too – and then back to Europe.

tagesschau.de: You are traveling to the International Space Station for the second time after 2014/2015. What has changed?

Cristoforetti: There are new, new devices and processes, for example in connection with life support systems. There are a lot of tests going on, also aimed at future missions, for example to the moon or far away. We need to know exactly how processes work so that people can live in space. For example, we need a certain air pressure and oxygen to breathe. We are taking out carbon dioxide, which must be filtered from the air on the space station. We have to eat, drink and go to the bathroom. Life support systems are a critical aspect of manned space travel.

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About the person: Samantha Cristoforetti

Italian Samantha Cristoforetti has been a member of the European Space Agency’s cosmonaut corps since 2009. In 2014, she flew to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Born in Milan in 1977, Cristoforetti is a fighter pilot and astronaut.

A quarter of the applicants were

tagesschau.de: The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut application round, which has just ended, has been more popular than it was in 2008. Why is that?

Cristoforetti: On the other hand, we at ESA made a lot of announcements this time around. I also think that space as a whole has become more and more present for people in recent years, for example through movies or social media. When I applied to ESA in 2008, there was not much sense that space was really a part of our lives. The topic of space was too far off. People have now understood – and I think they are right – that space is part of our society, our economy and our culture. So why not apply to become an astronaut?

tagesschau.de: About a quarter of the requests came from women. are you happy?

Cristoforetti: Yes yes I am happy as a woman and as an astronaut, but I am also simply as a member of the European Space Agency. Increasing the proportion of women was one of our goals, precisely because space would become more and more a part of life on Earth. Not that we’ll stand there in 30 or 40 years and say: men made space for men. Women must participate in order to participate.

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tagesschau.de: During your next visit to the International Space Station, you will be the commander. Joy?

Cristoforetti: I’m not excited, but of course I’m very happy. However, I am not the direct leader, but initially a completely normal member of the crew. When I get to the International Space Station, a fellow Russian will be the leader at first. Then when he comes back, I’ll take that role. After that, I have more responsibility and have to make sure that the teamwork works well. I have to be more careful than others that everyone is okay and proactively address problems. You are also the point of contact for the teams on the ground. But all astronauts aboard the International Space Station are well trained and prepared. You must not imagine that I, as a leader, give orders all day long.

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tagesschau.de: What qualities or characteristics do you need for missions in space?

Cristoforetti: You have to take care of your health and be physically fit. You should train every day and work with weights above all else. This is especially important for women so that they can build up the muscles of the upper body to be strong. And on the spiritual side: I think the most important thing is calm. Astronauts need to be ambitious and success-oriented, but not tense, irritable, or easily offended.

tagesschau.de: On your first mission to the International Space Station, you made headlines with a cute story: You poured espresso from a machine built specifically for the International Space Station. It certainly wasn’t just about sweet liferight?

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Cristoforetti: exactly. The goal was to find out how liquids behave under high temperatures and pressures – this is typical of espresso machines – and how you can keep this under technological control in a weightless situation.

tagesschau.de: When you first looked at Earth from space, what did you think?

Cristoforetti: Above all, I felt a sense of beauty. In the English language there is a beautiful word “awe”, which means something like “awe”. This view from space on this huge planet with billions of people is very special.

The interview was conducted by Ute Spangenberger,
SWR