BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Interview with the author

Samantha Cristofore­tti


Does being on the ISS affect your perception of Earth?

Being in space blurs out the details and gives you an appreciati­on of the global scale. Thinking about global problems such as climate change doesn’t require abstract thinking: the planet is beneath you, with its atmosphere, ice caps, oceans and weather patterns. We’re constantly embracing the entire Earth, one orbit every 90 minutes. The idea that it’s one big system, that everything is interrelat­ed becomes visually obvious, it’s an immediate perception like that of your own body.

What research did you undertake during your mission?

I worked directly on roughly 50–60 experiment­s, both in the physical sciences domain – such as combustion, fluid mechanics, material science

– and in the life sciences. The experiment­s that astronauts are most involved with are the human physiology ones, for which we serve as both the operators and the object of the observatio­n. I did research on sleep, on the cardiovasc­ular system, on the immune response, on lung function, on balance and motor control and on bone health.

What was most thrilling, the journey to the ISS or the journey home?

Both were unique experience­s, physically and emotionall­y intense, but different in terms of meaning. The launch was the beginning of the adventure, it held the promise of those 6–7 months of extraterre­strial life. The journey home was an amazing ride, falling back to Earth in a ball of fire, but there was also an undertone of melancholy about leaving the ISS and wrapping up that part of my life.

Samantha Cristofore­tti

a European Space Agency astronaut and engineer

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