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From Space to Earth: the mission continues

She’s the woman who has spent the most time in space – the first female astronaut from Italy. These two records alone might suffice to highlight the historical magnitude of the space mission spearheaded by Samantha Cristoforetti, who returned to Earth on June 11th this year, along with her travelling companions Terry Virts (UK) and Anton Shkaplerov (Russia). Their mission in space offered a chance to carry out a series of crucial scientific experiments, as well as a number of maintenance operations. 
Cristoforetti’s list of qualities doesn’t stop at her technical expertise, as anyone who followed her long trip in space could tell you: her communicative skills, magnetic smile and social networking persona also made her the perfect candidate to open up the space experience to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. Over 600.000 people followed Samantha’s trip in space on Twitter, with just as many checking in via Flickr, Facebook or reading the blog entries on the mission’s official website. Still live, the site http:/outpost43.esa.int, is an incredible testimony of Cristoforetti and her colleagues’ mission to the International Space Station, known as Expedition 42/43. It is fair to say that Samantha Cristoforetti’s attitude to her work, her will and skills in sharing her experiences and feelings about space travel, reminded the world about the key role played by the media in science and innovation, as well as shining a spotlight on Italy and the huge work it has carried out in this field.

It seems hardly surprising then, that captain Cristoforetti has become a fan favourite, having touched the hearts of millions of people with her photos of the Earth and Italy shot from outer space. We watched her brew the first espresso in space, smiled as she watched the Festival of Sanremo from up there, saw her land in the Kazakhstan Steppe and finally return home. 
Now she’s made it back, ‘the mission continues, from space to Earth’, as the Italian Air Force website reports. But how so? First of all, with the official post-flight tour, Cristoforetti, Virst and Shkaplerov embarked on in October, touching a number of selected Italian locations. On the second leg of the tour, the three Expedition 42/43 astronauts visited Milan on a half-day trip on October 6th, and were guests of Pirelli, for a chance to engage in conversation with a group of lucky students and visit the Fondazione. The visit also offered an opportunity to meet Samantha Cristoforetti in person, to ask her a little more about what these 200 days in space meant to her, and what propelled her to share this experience with the whole world, a special gift we shall forever be thankful for.

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