Samantha Cristoforetti holds the record for the longest continuous spaceflight by a European astronaut – but you may know her from another piece of history.
She is the first person to make a TikTok video aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Cristoforetti has become a star on the social media site, where her videos have been viewed millions of times.
Italy’s first female astronaut uses her second space mission to help TikTok reach its final frontier.
Cristoforetti first traveled to space in 2014 and spent 199 days aboard the ISS – then the record for the longest mission into space by a woman, although that has since been broken by Peggy Whitson, in 2017and then Christina Koch, in 2019†
The European Space Agency astronaut returned in April 2022 and is doing so in front of a growing audience.
A particular video, made in memory of Douglas Adams, author of the groundbreaking sci-fi series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has got over 17 million views on TikTok†
In the video, Cristoforetti shows viewers how a wet towel behaves in weightlessness, stating that she “a hoopy frood who always knows where her towel is” – a well-known quote among Hitchhikers fans.
The Italian has been making these jokes since she first went into space. Her first mission was NASA’s 42nd expedition to the ISS. No prizes for guessing the theme, but you might be impressed by the official poster she tweeted†
The space is big. Really big.
Cristoforetti is currently part of the ISS’s Minerva mission – called to the Roman goddess of wisdom and arthonoring “the exquisite craftsmanship of the men and women around the world who make human spaceflight possible”.
She is part of a four-member crew that departed on April 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in a SpaceX Dragon capsule. They are the fourth crew to travel to the ISS in a SpaceX vehicle.
At the time of writing, her TikTok video detailing the process from launch to settling at the ISS has received 1.2 million views†
When she’s not lighting up the internet with her snappy videos, Cristoforetti works 12 hours a day on maintenance and scientific research.
One of her projects is to understand how ovarian cells function in a microgravity environment. And while it’s in the preliminary stages, she believes the experiment could be useful for people on Earth.
“If you understand how that biology functions, you may have a path to also develop targeted drugs and medical interventions to improve that function,” she said.
“One of the major focuses of the space station right now is developing and developing technologies related to life support – keeping people alive in the space environment.
“We have legacy equipment that has been functioning quite well on the space station for a few decades. But there is also a drive to develop the next generation of such equipment that should be more compact, efficient, robust and require less maintenance.”
Her workday also includes mandatory exercise time, as long periods in space pose a risk to astronauts’ health and can even lead to bone loss†
It won’t surprise you to hear that now Cristoforetti has a TikTok for thatat.
Cristoforetti believes that within the next decade, more people will travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
“I’m confident we’ll also see space agencies targeting targets beyond low Earth orbit, especially smaller spaces, such as the lunar surface,” she said.
But back within Earth’s confines, Cristoforetti has some advice for aspiring astronauts.
She told the BBC “it takes so much luck” to become an astronaut, and she believes all astronauts are “incredibly grateful and aware of that privilege”.
During a recent campaign to select a new class of astronauts, there was a conscious effort to “reach out to young women to ensure that the pool of candidates … [as] various as possible”.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an environment that is in any way hostile to women,” Cristoforetti added. “So it’s just about finding a path and studying the right one.
“It’s especially a good idea to study a tribal subject — science, technology, engineering and math — even medicine, and then find your way into industry.”
And for even younger aspiring astronauts, Cristoforetti has set himself an extra workout challenge in space.
The astronaut will practice yoga on the ISS, something that children on Earth can watch and participate in.
Surely it’s only a matter of time before Cristoforetti releases a space yoga video on TikTok? Hopefully she won’t make us wait too long the answer to that ultimate question†
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