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.