The Crew-4 mission, which includes Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA) who will be participating for about six months on the International Space Station (ISS) on the Minerva mission, has begun. With her on the Crew Dragon Freedom capsule are Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Bob Hines, and mission specialist Jessica Watkins.
AstroSam returns to orbit
Everything went according to plan, and the Crew Dragon departed from slope 39A at Kennedy Space Center (Florida) powered by a Space X Falcon 9 rocket and is expected to dock with the space station around 02:15 this evening. For AstroSamantha, this is the second mission, after Futura, in 2014-2015. As they departed, the astronauts welcomed families and Samantha Chrysotforte sent a kiss to her children before a Tesla car took her to the launch pad.
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti greets her children before they make their way to the launch pad (Source: ESA via Twitter)
Towards the launch pad accompanied by Jovanotti’s notes
On the way to the launch pad, there was also a percussion and “Credo positive” charge to accompany Samantha Cristoforetti. Jovanotti’s song is actually the only Italian song on the musical playlist chosen by the astronaut, along with fellow NASA colleague Jessica Watkins to cheer the drive to Launch Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center
. The list, posted by the European Space Agency on Spotify, includes 23 hit songs, united by references to space and design women: from Jamiroquai’s Cosmic Girl to Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire, through to Nicki Minaj’s Starship, on Top of the World by Imagine Dragons and Fly away Lenny Kravitz and Run the world (for girls) by Beyoncé.
Journey to the space station
The flight to the space station will take at least 16 hours and everything will be managed independently by the computers in the Crew Dragon capsule, but if necessary, astronauts can control it at any time. The launch also marked a new re-entry success for the first stage, in its fourth use, which after thrusting the missile in the first few minutes completed a controlled landing, reclining on a floating platform called ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ in the Atlantic Ocean.
The docking maneuvers at the Harmony unit are expected to complete tonight at 2:15 AM CET, while the hatch is expected to open around 3:45 AM.
The space station’s seven crew members will welcome four Crew Dragon astronauts, including fellow AstroSam, Matthias Maurer, also from the European Space Agency, who arrived aboard the ship in November 2021 with the Crew-3 mission and will soon have to return to Earth, after 6 months in orbit.
Cristoforetti’s entry to the space station will mark the beginning of the European Minerva mission. In the months spent on board, the astronaut will have the role of commander of the US orbital segment, which includes the station’s US, European and Canadian units and components. The Italian astronaut will work on several science experiments, six of which will be for the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and will help complete the installation of the 11-meter European robotic arm (Era), which will be used to move payloads around Russia. Part of the matter: an operation that could include spacewalking, is currently uncertain.
Saccoccia (Asi), AstroSam’s symbol of Italian excellence
Space exploration is one of Italy’s pioneers and cosmonauts are among its most visible symbols: the head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) noted this on the sidelines of the Crew-4 launch, the mission that will bring Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian astronaut. European Space Agency (ESA), for about six months on the International Space Station (ISS).
Sacuccia notes that “space exploration, both human and robotic, has always represented one of the pioneers of Italy’s role in international space activities.” “The astronauts are clearly the most visible symbol of this Italian privilege! This year’s return of Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station, which was acquired through our negotiations with the European Space Agency in recent years, also symbolically underscores the importance of this for some time our country’s focus on space activities. AstroSam will be participating for about 6 months on the International Space Station as part of the Minerva mission, where it will conduct dozens of important science experiments. Good luck – concludes Saccoccia – and good luck to Samantha on this extraordinary new adventure!