Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

Out of this World: Samantha Cristoforetti

Introducing Italy’s space explore Captain Samantha Cristoforetti

Space, the final frontier. Running on a treadmill in space watching reruns of Battlestar Galactica  not have been what Captain Samantha Cristoforetti imagined as a young girl staring up at the crystal-clear night sky, picturing how it would be to explore the infinite atmosphere. Nor could she have envisioned becoming a rocket scientist doing housework 350 km above the earth’s surface listening to Via con Me by Paolo Conte. Until one day, it happened. 

Starry Dreams

For as long as Cristoforetti can remember, she dreamt of exploring space. The Milano-born European Space Agency astronaut developed a passion for the galaxies while growing up in the ‘80s in the tiny mountain town of Malè in the Alps’ Val di Sole. With hotelier parents, Cristoforetti had an idyllic Sound of Music-like childhood, playing in nature and immersing herself in the wonderland of le montagne while forming new friendships with visiting hotel guests. At night, she would bathe in the twinkling constellations.

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti points to the SpaceX Dragon capsule after grabbing the spacecraft using the Canadarm robotic arm from inside the copula April 17, 2015 in Earth Orbit.

The travel bug bit early when Cristoforetti, a self-declared Star Trek geek, crossed the Atlantic for a quintessential American high school experience as a yearlong exchange student in St. Paul, Minnesota. After finishing high school in Italy, Cristoforetti headed to Germany, obtaining her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Technische Universität in Munich, which included a four month experimental project in aerodynamics at Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France and ten months in Moscow researching her thesis on rocket propellants at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies. Not a surprise that Cristoforetti, who is passionate about science and technology, is also an avid fan of languages. During her space training, she listened to Harry Potter books in Russian to keep it fresh. She also speaks English, German, French, and Russian, and is currently studying Chinese.

Cristoforetti embarks on a new frontier

Traveling the globe was fun but exploring the final frontier was much more enticing. In 2000, fate lent Cristoforetti a helping hand when Italy passed a law permitting females to join the military. Cristoforetti was one of the first women to enrol – this would just the first of her many firsts.  She joined the Accademia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force Academy) and added  another bachelor’s degree – aeronautical sciences – to her long list of accomplishments. In 2006, Cristoforetti earned her fighter pilot wings after attending the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. And in 2009, the Universe called. Cristoforeti was chosen from 8,000 European applicants to join five other colleagues to the European Space Astronaut corps, a launch pad for her eventual 2014 mission in space.

“Saturated with sublime beauty, steeped in the splendour of the stars, overflowing with moving sunrises and sunsets, hypnotized by the dance of the auras.”

Samantha Cristoforetti, 2020

In Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut (2020), Cristoforetti describes her time in space with colourful anecdotes of travelling through the atmosphere weightless at a speed of 28km/hr, like her OOO message which read “I’ll be off the planet for a while, back in May 2015. Unfortunately, I won’t read your message…”. She describes lacklustre showers (no running water in space!) with jaw dropping views of the aurora borealis, or is fascinated watching the Earth glowing red and blue in the first morning light, by madcap tornadoes and by the beauty of natural formations like the serene Namibian desert and cerulean Caribbean seas.  

Breaking barriers and setting records

Cristoforetti remains humble about the incredible accomplishments she has made not just as an astronaut, but as a female in that role. She is the first Italian female astronaut in space and the first female ESA astronaut to serve as a crew member on board the International Space Station and complete a long duration mission in space, spending 199 days on ISS Expedition 42/Expedition 43 ‘Futura’ Mission between November 2014 and June 2015. Perhaps most interesting and Italian, she is the first person to make an espresso in space.

Italy viewed from space

Space has been traditionally dominated by men, in fact, 90% of astronauts are male. Cristogoretti broke the barriers, and though discrimination didn’t parlay into her experience, implicit gender biases can persist. Cristoforetti aims to break the barries by shaping the future for girls and women in STEM. Additionally, her time in space solidified a sense of global community and being connected to humanity as a whole. Today, Cristoforetti continues to be a part of ESA’s missions and Italy’s President Mattarella awarded Cristoforetti with the Republic’s highest-ranking honour, the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, in 2015. What does she miss most about her time in space? Gravity. And the simplicity of a place where one can live long and prosper.

ISSIMO celebrates Italy’s first woman in space with Invicta

Hey, stargazers! ISSIMO loves Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space, and the female record holder with the most time in space counting 199 days and 16 hours.  We love her so much we dedicated a backpack to her out-of-this-world achievements. ISSIMO x Invicta celebrates Samantha in a bold and elegant black zaino decorated with patches like the ISSIMO constellation and a view of Italy from space. Trust us, it’s out of this world!

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