The changeover from Expedition 41 to 42 on the International Space Station is now complete. Almost two weeks ago, on 10 November 2014, three members of the space station’s crew returned to Earth after spending 165 days in orbit (see this article) marking the end of Expedition 41. The first half of Expedition 42, namely the Russians Alexander Samokutyaev and Yelena Serova and the American Barry Wilmore, who arrived on 26 September, therefore remained in space. The second half of the crew took off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Monday 24 November at 03.31h local time on the Soyuz spacecraft TMA-15M. Less than 6 hours after launch, the three-seater Russian spacecraft docked with the space station. The trio who travelled to the ISS comprises the Russian Anton Shkaplerov, the American Terry Virts and the Italian from the European Space Agency (ESA) Samantha Cristoforetti. The ESA section of the mission is entitled Futura.
At 3 mins 05 secs, the trio of TMA-15M are asked “what is the answer to life, the Universe and everything”. Samantha Cristoforetti is the first to take the microphone and answer: “the answer is 42”. There is an explanation as to why below.
Expedition 42 chose to make reference to the comic science fiction novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams (1952-2001). In this book, a super computer calculates that the answer to life and the very existence of the Universe is the number 42 (but don’t go looking for any hidden meaning, by the author’s own admission this is a joke running through his work). 42, as in Expedition 42! This explains Samantha Cristoforetti’s amused reply.
Still in reference to the “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, for its official poster, Expedition 42 decided to dress up as the book’s main characters (from left to right below): Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov personify the two-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, Alexandre Samokutyaev is Humma Kavula, Barry Wilmore (commander) plays Arthur Dent, Elena Serova chose Ford Prefect and Samantha Cristoforetti dressed as Trillian. Robonaut2 also gets in on the act as Marvin, the paranoid android.
It is a NASA tradition to create posters that are more aesthetic or funny than the formal crew photos and these often reflect films or TV series (for example Star Trek).
How to follow Samantha Cristoforetti, the first female Italian astronout
Since 24 November, Expedition 42 of the ISS (International Space Station) has been complete. This crew of 4 men and 2 women includes Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Italy’s first female astronaut. You can follow her orbital journey (called the Futura mission for the ESA) on her Twitter account @AstroSamantha, but there is another way of connecting with Samantha Cristoforetti through an initiative that combines the power of social networking with an interactive web interface that tells you where the ISS and the Italian astronaut are in real-time. This project, entitled Friends in Space has been created by the design agency Acurrat (it all began during a Twitter conversation between Giorgia Lupi of Acurrat and Samantha Cristoforetti).
To follow and share in Samantha Cristoforetti’s mission go to the Friends in Space website or, of course, the dedicated Twitter account.
Biography Samantha Cristoforetti
Born in Milan, Italy, on 26 April 1977, Samantha Cristoforetti enjoys hiking, scuba diving, yoga, reading and travelling. Other interests include technology, nutrition and the Chinese language.
Samantha completed her secondary education at the Liceo Scientifico in Trento, Italy, in 1996 after having spent a year as an exchange student in the United States.
In 2001, she graduated from the Technische Universität Munich, Germany, with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with specialisations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures. As part of her studies, she spent four months at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, working on an experimental project in aerodynamics. She wrote her master’s thesis in solid rocket propellants during a 10-month research stay at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Moscow, Russia.
As part of her training at the Italian Air Force Academy, she also completed a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical sciences at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, in 2005.
In 2001 Samantha joined the Italian Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli, Italy, graduating in 2005. She served as class leader and was awarded the Honour Sword for best academic achievement. From 2005 to 2006, she was based at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, USA. After completing the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training, she became a fighter pilot and was assigned to the 132nd Squadron, 51st Bomber Wing, based in Istrana, Italy.
In 2007, Samantha completed Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training. From 2007 to 2008, she flew the MB-339 and served in the Plan and Operations Section for the 51st Bomber Wing in Istrana, Italy.
In 2008, she joined the 101st Squadron, 32nd Bomber Wing, based at Foggia, Italy, where she completed operational conversion training for the AM-X ground attack fighter.
Samantha is a Captain in the Italian Air Force. She has logged over 500 hours flying six types of military aircraft: SF-260, T-37, T-38, MB-339A, MB-339CD and AM-X.
Samantha was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009. She joined ESA in September 2009 and completed basic astronaut training in November 2010. In July 2012 she was assigned to an Italian Space Agency ASI mission aboard the International Space Station, to be launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2014. This will be the second long-duration ASI mission and the eighth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut.
Samantha is now training for her mission on Station systems, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, robotics and spacewalks.
When not in training in the US, Russia, Canada or Japan, Samantha is based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. She enjoys interacting with space enthusiasts on Twitter as @AstroSamantha.
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Categories: Leadership in Space