ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is all set for her five-month mission on the International Space Station. She will leave Earth on Sunday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with NASA astronaut Terry Virts and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.
Samantha was assigned to the Futura mission more than two years ago and has travelled the world training on all the elements of the most complex machine ever built: the International Space Station. She learnt how to control the Station’s robotic arms, how to handle any emergency and how to perform all the scientific experiments she will run for the scientists on Earth.
The last hurdles included the final exams to qualify for flying the Soyuz that will take them to space, and a two-week quarantine to avoid bringing any unwanted passengers to the Station.
The next ESA astronaut to head for space, Andreas Mogensen, is sharing the quarantine with Samantha as experience ahead of his own 10-day ‘iriss’ mission.
Samantha, Anton and Terry visited their spacecraft for the last time before launch last week and made a final check of the pressure suits they will wear during their journey to space.
Different versions of the Soyuz spacecraft have been flying for almost five decades and many traditions have developed over that time. This week the international crew planted a tree on a boulevard in Kazakhstan, adding to the trees planted by every astronaut before launch. On Sunday, Samantha will sign the door of the ‘cosmonaut hotel’ before leaving.
Despite its age, Soyuz has been updated and improved continually and it will deliver the crew to their new home orbiting Earth 400 km high in under six hours.
To get there so quickly, Expedition 42/43 will be propelled by the Soyuz rocket to 28 800 km/h accelerating 50 km/h on average every second for the first nine minutes after liftoff.
Sharing the experience
Samantha is keen on sharing her flight with followers and promises to do her best to answer questions while on the Station. The Italian astronaut has recounted her training in a logbook and will continue to write about life in space.
Follow the launch live from Sunday evening on the ESA website. Launch is scheduled for 20:59 GMT (21:59 CET), with docking at 02:59 GMT (03:59 CET) on 24 November.
Follow Samantha via samanthacristoforetti.esa.int.