The Italian Almanac

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Samantha Cristoforetti

Rocket Woman

Italy's first woman astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, will be heading into space aboard the shuttle Soyuz in November 2014 for an extended mission at the International Space Station (ISS), the President of the Italian Space Agency Enrico Saggese said. Cristoforetti, an air force lieutenant with an engineering degree, has been an astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) since May 2009.

The ISS, an internationally developed space laboratory, has hosted astronauts continuously since October 31, 2000. "The last three years as a European astronaut were an incredible time of personal and professional growth," said Samantha Cristoforetti after the announcement.

The 35-year-old Milan native speaks fluent German, English and French and has a good knowledge of Russian. As well as scuba diving, she lists her hobbies as reading, yoga, swimming, skiing, mountain biking and caving.