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ISS: Italy’s Samantha Cristoforetti becomes first European female commander of International Space Station

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European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European woman to take command of the International Space Station (ISS) during a livestreamed ceremony on Wednesday.

Outgoing commander and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev handed over a symbolic golden key to Italian astronaut Cristoforetti, who will now command the ISS until her return to Earth on October 10.

“Spasibo Oleg, thank you Oleg for those words, and I think I speak on behalf of all our crew and say how much we appreciated your leadership in the last months, not only in getting a lot of work done as you have already mentioned but also with your warmth, with your generosity, with your lightheartedness,” Cristoforetti said.

“I think you have really helped us grow together, not only as a crew, as crew members, and crew mates but also as you said, as one big space family,” she added.

The 45-year-old is now the fifth European commander of the ISS. She holds the record for the longest time spent in space by a woman, which she set during a 199 day stay in 2014 and 2015.

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