Paris (AFP)- Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European to take command of the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday and the ceremony was broadcast live.
The event gave the outgoing ISS commander, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev, the opportunity to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. “Despite the storms on Earth, our international cooperation continues,” he said.
This is the second time in space for Samantha Cristoforetti, a 45-year-old engineer and fighter pilot, who left for the ISS on April 27.
The astronaut is the fifth woman, and the first non-American woman, to take command of the spacecraft since the formal appointment of a commander in 2000.
During an informal and relaxed ceremony, the acting commander symbolically presented him with a golden key for his investiture, which he will assume until October 10, before returning to Earth.
Artemiev praised the work of the team of ten astronauts from three countries, including himself. He described the ISS as “the continuation of the Soyuz-Apollo program, when the relationship between East and West was not easy either”.
Cooperation between Russia and the West in space matters is hampered by the offensive launched by Moscow against its Ukrainian neighbor on February 24.
Western sanctions imposed on Russia following this offensive partly affect the Russian aerospace industry and could have an impact on the ISS, some of whose supplies could be disrupted.
For her part, Samantha Cristoforetti praised the work of her teammates, noting that they all form “a small part of the gigantic team on the ground” which manages the operations of the ISS.
© 2022 AFP