PARIS (ESA PR) — In May 2021, it was announced that ESA astronaut and Dragon Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti will serve as Commander of International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 68a ).
As part of normal vehicle scheduling, the Space Station flight schedule was recently updated by adjusting the next crew rotation for Crew-4 and Crew-5, resulting in a shorter mission for Crew -4. ISS Expedition 68 will now take place after Samantha leaves the Station.
Throughout her time onboard, Samantha will serve as the United States Orbital Segment Manager (USOS), which includes the American, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station.
Crew members are assigned to flight opportunities and International Space Station roles by the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel (MCOP). This panel is made up of representatives from ESA, NASA, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). ESA is represented by the director of the European Astronaut Center Frank De Winne.
Frank says it’s not unusual for the flight schedule to be adjusted, as traffic to the International Space Station must be carefully coordinated based on operational needs.
“While this means that Samantha will no longer be Commander of the International Space Station, the Panel maintains its endorsement of her as Leader. She will continue to be fully trained for the position of Commander and it is agreed that , if the schedule returned to the initial one, she would enter this role, ”he adds.
Samantha says, “As crew members, we are ready to help if needed. I am humbled to serve as Chief of the USOS and this role includes most of the duties I would have had as a Commander, but I also recognize that many people in Europe, especially women, have been inspired by the prospect of having the first European woman commander of the ISS. I regret that this is not happening on my flight, but we are in the process of selecting a new class of astronauts and I am confident that this class will include highly skilled and motivated women who will be ready, in the not so distant future l future, to fulfill leadership roles.
ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker, said Samantha’s appointment as USOS chief is a testament to the qualities she brings to the station.
“As a second-time pilot and capable leader, Samantha’s knowledge, composure and previous experience in orbit are a real asset to the crew. She is an excellent role model for those currently involved in the selection process. ESA astronauts, especially for our candidates, as they seek to represent Europe in space.