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Space, Samantha’s mission started, flying with Minerva 6 Italian experiments

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The second space mission of Samantha Cristoforetti has begun and the Minerva program will start today, a mission that counts dozens and dozens of international scientific experiments and among these 6 are Italian tests thanks to the commitment of the Italian Space Agency led by Giorgio Bag. After the 2014-2015 Futura mission, once again the Italian ESA astronaut will remain in space for about 5 months, recounting his life and his intense work in orbit through Twitter, Youtube and, for the first time, also using the Chinese social TikTok: Samantha is in fact the first space TikToker. Aerospace engineer and aviator, Samantha has a very dense ‘travel agenda’ which, once aboard the ISS, she plays with the role of commander of the American orbital segment Usos. Its new Minerva mission got underway with the launch on Wednesday 27 April when at 9.52 Italian time the Falcon 9 detached itself from the Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, the historic ramp that saw all the Apollo and the NASA Shuttle. At the tip of the Falcon well anchored was the Dragon Freedom, the Space X shuttle at its debut in space and named after the extraordinary Freedom mission that took Alan Sheppard out of the Earth’s atmosphere, the first American to go into space in 1961. Sitting next to Samantha Cristoforetti also the Nasa astronauts of Crew 4: the commander Kjell Lindgren, the pilot Robert Hines and the mission specialist Jessica Watkins. “The exploration of space, both human and robotic, has always represented one of the spearheads of Italy’s role in international space activities” underlined the president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia, after the successful launch of Samantha . “The astronauts are, of course, the most visible symbol of this Italian excellence. Samantha Cristoforetti’s return this year to the International Space Station, obtained through our negotiations with ESA in recent years, also symbolically underlines the importance that the our country is giving space to space activities “, Saccoccia observed, sending a big” good luck and best wishes to Samantha for her new, extraordinary adventure “. The journey to the ISS was uneventful, Samantha and her colleagues arrived at the International Space Station on the night of Thursday 28 April at 1.37 am Italian time. Samantha Cristoforetti was also welcomed by the German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer who began his six-month long mission on the ISS on 11 November 2021 as a member of Crew 3 and whose return to Earth is expected shortly. “It is a great pleasure for me to see not only the successful launch and docking of the Crew-4 with Samantha Cristoforetti, but also the meeting in orbit of two extremely competent European astronauts” commented Josef Aschbacher, General Manager of ES a, which considers it a very special event to see two European astronauts together in space. The Space X Dragon on which Cristoforetti flew was baptized Freedom also as a sign of support in this complex geopolitical phase, Samantha and her colleagues from Crew 4 work with all the Russian astronauts and cosmonauts always active on the Space Station. Indeed, the Italian astronaut himself, in his last connection with the media before the launch, had pointed out that “the work of the International Space Station continues, it must continue” and that “the ISS must remain a symbol of peaceful cooperation”. Speaking in connection with the headquarters of the Italian Space Agency, Samantha reiterated that the “spirit” among the astronauts aboard the ISS “is one of friendship and the will to work together”. “We are friends with our American colleagues and Russian colleagues and we have the responsibility to carry out a mission that has many researchers behind it, people who have invested years and years of work. Ours is a joint spirit, that of carrying on the work of the Iss which has been and must continue to be a symbol of peaceful cooperation “said the Italian astronaut who had also reassured his safety and that of all the crew. A master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Munich and another in Aeronautical Sciences from the Federico II of Naples, Samantha will carry out the Minerva mission dedicated to wisdom and which includes numerous experiments including 6 Italians. In almost 5 months of activity on the International Space Station, Samantha Cristoforetti will deal with experiments related to research for humans, biology and biotechnology, the development and demonstration of new technologies, physical sciences. Cristoforetti will also follow some experiments already on board the ISS and started in 2019 by the Italian ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano during the Beyond mission. In particular, the six Italian experiments that Samantha will conduct are the Prometheus experiment of which Gianni Ciofani of the Italian Institute of Technology is principal investigator, a new experiment of the Italian Space Agency to investigate how antioxidant protection can reduce oxidative stress, one of the most dangerous effects of space flight. Oxidative stress, the researchers recall, affects the central nervous system and contributes to several serious diseases on Earth, such as Chron’s disease and Parkinson’s. Cristoforetti will also work on the Prometheus experiment, which also aims to make longer human missions in space possible, also through support for patients on the ground. With the Italian Ovospace experiment, Samantha will instead study the effects of microgravity on the female reproductive system. Ovospace has as Pi Andrea Fuso of Sapienza University of Rome and the experiment uses bovine ovarian cell cultures that will be incubated at 37 ° C for 72 hours in orbit before freezing them and returning them to Earth for analysis. The Evoo in Space experiment has as Principal Investigator Enzo Perri, Crea-Council for research in agriculture and the analysis of the agricultural economy), in collaboration with Unaprol and Coldiretti and is a new experiment that will study the impact of microgravity and of the radiation conditions on the physio-chemical, nutritional and microbiological characteristics of Italian extra virgin olive oil as a food rich in antioxidants and with anti-inflammatory properties. In Samantha’s Italian technical-scientific booklet there is also the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment with Pi Arturo Moleti of the Physics Department of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, assisted by a team composed of Altec, Campus Biomedico, La Sapienza, Inail and Cnr . The experiment aims to assess any damage to the hearing system with audiological tests on astronauts carried out before and after the mission. The objective of the test is to give an assessment of the hearing function in a noisy environment, in a fast, non-invasive way, and without the active participation of the astronauts. The results will make it possible to highlight or exclude damage to the hearing system, even minor and transient in nature, and will have an impact on the design of future long-term missions. The Lidal-Light Ion Detector for Altea experiment with Pi is also Italian. Livio Narici of the Tor Vergata University – Infn. Lidal is a particle detector built starting from the Asi Altea payload, of which it extends and improves the technical characteristics. Altea, which operated on the ISS between 2006 and 2012, was built for the study of the interaction of heavy and medium ions with the human central nervous system, Lidal will allow Altea to measure also light ions and in particular the protons. Furthermore, using fast and cutting-edge electronics, Lidal will be able to directly measure the speed of each particle, allowing to determine the kinetic energy of the incident particles. The payload installation operations were followed by the Telespazio and Argotec team, which support ASI for the scientific use of the ISS, by the Kayser Italia team that built the device, and by the scientific team of the Physics Department. of the University of Rome Tor Vergata On board the ISS, during the Minerva mission, the NutrIss experiment will also be carried out, led by Professor Gianni Biolo of the University of Trieste, technical manager for the realization of the apparatus of the ASI experiment. the Kayser Italia of Livorno. The study aims to maintain an ideal body composition avoiding the increase in the fat-lean mass ratio due to inactivity due to microgravity. The overall goal is to optimize the performance of crew members and the quality of life in limiting the negative effects of space flights. After monitoring the metabolic activity of astronauts Luca Parmitano and Matthias Maurer during the previous ESA missions, the Trieste team will now repeat the analyzes on Samantha Cristoforetti during the Minerva mission. “The Nutriss project monitors muscle metabolism subjected to microgravity and adopts special measures aimed at counteracting the loss of lean mass through dietary control” explained Gianni Biolo, professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Trieste. “Our goal – he added – is to define a reference nutritional protocol for long-lasting space missions. Thanks to the experimental activities that we will conduct with Samantha Cristoforetti, we will obtain information and ad hoc solutions for the body of female astronauts”.

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