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Minerva mission begins as Samantha arrives at Space Station

Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom, carrying ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and her NASA colleagues Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, docked to the International Space Station at 01:37 CEST Thursday 28 April.

The docking marks the start of Samantha’s second space mission, known as Minerva.

Crew-4’s journey to space

Collectively known as Crew-4, Samantha and her NASA colleagues were launched from launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA at 09:52 CEST Wednesday 27 April.

Samantha served as Mission Specialist during this flight and will now take on the role of USOS Lead, responsible for operations within the US Orbital Segment of the International Space Station for the duration of her mission. This segment includes the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station.

Crew-4 was welcomed aboard by the Station’s current inhabitants, including ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer who was launched to the Station as part of Crew-3 and is expected to return shortly to Earth.

Two Europeans in orbit

ESA director general Josef Aschbacher says it is particularly special to see two European astronauts together in space.

“It gives me great pleasure to see not only the successful launch and docking of Crew-4 with Samantha Cristoforetti, but also the meeting of two highly capable European astronauts in orbit.

“As a seasoned space flyer, Samantha will continue to represent Europe and support European experiments aboard the Space Station throughout her Minerva mission. It is these experiments that will aid European innovation on Earth as we seek to build our industry, preserve our environment and explore even farther in space.”

This sentiment is echoed by ESA director of human and robotic exploration David Parker who says, “Samantha has been an excellent role model for those currently participating in ESA’s astronaut selection process – providing advice, insight and inspiration throughout.

“As USOS Lead, she will continue to be an excellent representative for Europe as we look forward to another busy few months of science, research and operations on the International Space Station.”


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