Samantha Cristoforetti, born April 26, 1977 in Milan, Italy is a Captain in the Italian Air Force and the third female astronaut in the European Space Agency.
Cristoforetti was raised in Malé, Italy and attended Technical High School in Trento, graduating in 1996 after spending a year as an exchange student in the United States. In 2001, she received a master’s degree from the Technical University, Munich in mechanical engineering with specializations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures.
As part of her studies, Cristoforetti spent four months in Toulouse, France working on an experimental aerodynamics project. She wrote her master’s thesis about solid rocket propellants during a ten-month research stay at Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies, Moscow.
Samantha Cristoforetti joined the Italian Air Force Academy in 2001. Four years later, she graduated with the maximum number of high grades, also receiving the Sciabola d'Onore decoration awarded to excellent students. She received a bachelor’s degrees in aeronautics in 2005 from University of Naples Federico II. She also holds a master’s from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida.
After graduating from the Italian Air Force Academy, Cristoforetti took part in Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas which she completed in 2006. She was assigned to the 132nd Squadron, 51st Bomber Wing, based in Istrana, Italy where she completed the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training.
In 2007/08, she was Deputy Chief of Wing's Plan and Operations in the 51st Wing before joining the 101st Squadron, 32nd Bomber Wing to complete operational conversion training for the AM-X fighter jet. Overall, Cristoforetti flew six different types of aircraft, logging more than 500 hours of flight time.
Selected as one of six new ESA astronauts from 8,407 applicants, Cristoforetti began astronaut training at the European Astronaut Center, Cologne, Germany. As part of initial training, she and the rest of the 2009 ESA Class, informally known as the "Shenanigans," completed a general training course at EAC, Johnson Space Center and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. In November 2010, she completed basic training after two months of training in star city to learn the Russian language, get familiar with the Russian segment of ISS and the Soyuz spacecraft and Sokol suit.
In mid-2012, Samantha Cristoforetti was assigned to an Italian Space Agency ASI mission as part of ISS Expedition 42/43 and Soyuz TMA-15M. This will be the second ASI mission to ISS and the eighth long-duration ESA mission.
Following the crew selection process, the three crew members, Anton Shkaplerov, Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti began flight specific training. At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Cristoforetti completed extensive Soyuz training, learning about the different systems and their functionality to prepare for her role as Soyuz Flight Engineer.
At the Johnson Space Center, she was familiarized with NASA Mission Operations and began extensive training for USOS operations including scientific activities, systems maintenance, emergency procedures and EVA operations. In Canada, at the Canadian Space Agency, she completed training for operations of Canadarm 2 and in Tsukuba, Japan, she trained for Kibo module operations as well as HTV procedures.
In Europe, Cristoforetti trained operations related to the Columbus research module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle as she is the backup crew member for the final ATV docking and the prime crew member for the final ATV departing the space station.
The crew completed ISS and Soyuz flight exams in May as part of their role as Soyuz TMA-13M backup crew. They achieved excellent results and were present at the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the launch of Soyuz TMA-13M, then assuming the role of prime crew in preparation for launch aboard Soyuz TMA-15M in November 2014.
In her free time, Samantha Cristoforetti enjoys hiking, scuba diving, yoga, reading and traveling. She knows Italian, German, English, French and Russian.