At 9:52 a.m. (Italian time) today, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to circumvent Earth’s atmosphere and bring Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti into orbit, for her second onboard experience. International Space Station (ISS); The launch has been delayed several times in the past few days.
Along with her, American astronauts Jill Lindgren, Bob Heine and Jessica Watkins, on a mission of no less than six months aboard the station, the largest and most expensive human-built laboratory in orbit.
Live broadcast of the launch
Christopherite She was already in space Between 2014 and 2015, I spent 199 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes there as part of the Futura mission on behalf of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the European Space Agency (ESA). His new mission has been called instead Minervaas the Roman god of wisdom and protector of artisans, honoring the people who made space exploration with humans possible over the past few decades.
Launched aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, developed by SpaceX since 2020 Manages transport crews From the United States to the International Space Station.
After the space shuttles were retired in 2011, astronauts and astronauts have been able to reach orbit for about ten years. Only from Kazakhstan, aboard the Soyuz transport systems of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos). SpaceX has made launches from Cape Canaveral possible again, making use of its reusable rockets and therefore cheaper than other solutions. Boeing is expected to do the same, but the development of its system has been subject to many delays and is still in the testing phase.
For the first time in space, Cristoforetti traveled aboard the Soyuz, a rather primitive system developed in the times of the Soviet Union, but which has proven through decades of use (and appropriate updates) to be extremely reliable.
Crew Dragon has a more futuristic look, both outside and inside, with touch screens and simplified controls, compared to Soyuz panels with many buttons and switches.
Like many other rockets, the Falcon 9 consists of several parts (stages) that separate when the rocket reaches a certain height: at the end is the Crew Dragon, with the astronauts inside.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Cristoforetti and the rest of the crew arrived at the capsule above the Falcon 9, which is more than 70 meters high, awaiting departure. After security checks, the rocket ignited 9 first-stage engines powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen, pushing the capsule to an altitude of 90 kilometers. After most of the fuel was exhausted, the first stage separated from the rest of the rocket, leaving the task of continuing the flight to the second stage, equipped with one engine, more than enough for the second part of the flight into space. Environment.
Meanwhile, the first stage made a scheduled return to Earth to recover it. The reusable first stage, the most expensive part of the Falcon 9, is a staple of SpaceX’s business model: it saves several million dollars over competing, single-use, self-destructing solutions. Atmosphere.
A few hours after launch, at around 2 a.m. on Thursday, April 28 in Italy, the Crew Dragon will arrive near the International Space Station and begin docking maneuvers. The entire action will be carried out automatically by the capsule, but the crew will have the possibility to intervene if something goes wrong.
However, in previous flights with the Crew Dragon, no particular problems occurred and the procedure is now fully tested.
Once the docking activities are complete, the crew already on the International Space Station will be able to open the gates and welcome the new astronauts who have arrived from Earth, which will be approximately 400 kilometers from each other. At the station, astronauts will experience sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes, and their bodies will adapt to life in microgravity conditions and the many activities to be performed on board the ship.
Many experiments are actually being done on the International Space Station, from growing plants to producing new materials using microgravity, a very promising frontier for materials engineering. But to some extent, the crews are guinea pigs as well as experimenters: they participate in many experiments in order to Understand how an organism interacts with the space environment And long stays in orbit, in order to discover new things about our bodies with setbacks to treatment here on Earth and to plan new manned space missions, for example to the moon and one day to Mars.
Samantha Cristoforetti turned 45 on April 26 and is currently the only female astronaut at the European Space Agency, but that is expected to change soon with the ESA’s selection of astronauts and new astronauts. She was born in Milan on April 26, 1977, but grew up in the province of Trento, in a small town of about two thousand inhabitants, called Male, in the Val di Sol.
Cristoforetti graduated from a scientific high school in Trento in 1996, after spending a year in the United States thanks to an exchange program for students. Five years later, I graduated from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, and then got a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. In the following years, she joined the Air Force Academy in Pozzuoli in Italy, and between 2005 and 2006 became a war pilot, receiving titles and awards for her activity and becoming the captain of the Italian Air Force, the force from which she eventually departed. for the year 2019.
As he said in his book Diary of an intern astronaut, Cristoforetti is fond of hiking, but still does not disdain the possibility of diving in seas around the world. She has said on several occasions that she is very curious and interested in learning how things work, not just in orbit.
In addition to technology, it deals with nutrition and above all with the way food interacts with our bodies. Part of his research and experiments that he will conduct on the International Space Station will be devoted to topics of nutrition, as was already done during the previous mission.
“Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Freelance organizer. Avid analyst. Friendly troublemaker. Bacon junkie.”