FT interviews astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in space | FT

I just wanted to start off witha very personal and very human question. To ask you, what is itlike living in space? You were there aswell in 2014, I think, so I'd be curious to knowhow has it changed since you were up there last time? Yeah, Peggy.

Thanks for the question. I think that what I seecompared to seven years ago is that Space Station is evenbusier than it was back then. I mean, back thenI had the feeling that there was so muchgoing on, but now it's like an order of magnitude more. There are so manymore experiments. There is so much more equipment. If you look around me yousee how the density there.

Everywhere thereare cables, laptops, and that's just a signof all the hardware, all the scientific equipmentthat is attached to all those cables and laptops. So I think that the SpaceStation programme and all the internationalpartners, including ESA, have really stepped up theirgame in terms of the sheer quantity and variety ofactivities that are on Space Station.

That includes both purescientific research, like really trying to understanda scientific phenomenon. But also a lot oftechnology demonstrations because we really want to makeuse of this amazing facility that we have in theInternational Space Station to develop maturetest technologies that will enable us toexplore space further beyond low-earth orbit. Thank you.

Clive. Samantha, I'd like, please,to ask you a personal question as well, about thephysiological and health effects of living in space. How do you maintain a dailyrhythm of waking, sleeping, working, eating, relaxing? Yeah. Thank you, Clive.

Well, we are on our24 hour schedule just like on the ground. Although, of course, we don'thave the sunrise and sunset rhythm that we have onEarth, but we basically go by our watches. And we have a pretty routine daywhere we start in the morning around 7:30-ish. We start our workday. We have a conferencethat kind of.

Get us all synced upwith all the control centres around the world. Houston, Huntsville, Munichin Europe, Tsukuba, Moscow, we talk to all theteams that work with us throughout the day. Then we get off to our job,we work for about 12 hours until 7:30 in the evening. That does include,and that speaks to your point ofstaying healthy,.

About 2 and 1/2 hours thatare dedicated to workouts. In weightlessness alot of our muscles really don't have to work much. You guys on the ground now, youhave to work to sit up right, or stay upright, or to walk. We don't have to dothat so we really have to work out every dayto prevent muscle atrophy, but also bone loss. We have our meals thatwe try to take together.

As much as possible. And then in the evenings,we get the chance to relax, make phone calls. So we try to, even uphere, although this is our home andour workplace, we try to maintain a healthywork-life balance. Oh. Well, there are quitea few earthlings that could take that advice as well.

I'd like to turn to aslightly more topical subject. I'd like to knowfrom you, Samantha, what impact has theRussian invasion of Ukraine had on your relationswith your cosmonaut colleagues? And also, what future do you seefor collaboration with Russia? How? How will wecollaborate after this? And would we lose someimportant expertise.

If we do fail to collaborate? Yes. When it comes tothe Space Station, Space Station is verymuch an integrated vessel. There is no way to separateits function and its ability to continue to operateseparating like the Russian or Nasa contributions, or theother international partners. So you really needthis cooperation.

To continue, and stay healthy,and stay productive in order to maintain Space Station. I think we all recognise howimportant Space Station is. I mean, it's likethis, I like to call it humanity's outpost in space. Now, of course, there's alsoa Chinese Space Station. For a long time therewas really only ISS and it's incredibly valuablebecause it's an incredibly unique and capable facility.

We're not goingto have something exactly like a Space Stationfor a long time to come. So we all recognise that,yes, it's a time of conflict. Yes, we are devastated bywhat is happening on Earth. But we also know that wehave something precious that we need to protect andpreserve so we focus on that, both on the professional level. All the interactionsthat all the teams that support Space Stationhave between agencies.

And certainly up here inspace where we are one crew and we focus on our friendship,and on our shared commitment to Space Station. Thank you. Samantha, as you willknow all too well, the amount of potentiallydangerous debris in orbit is increasing the whole time. Has the threat ofthis extra junk affected life onthe Space Station?.

And following thatup, what action do you think theworld should take to limit the growth in spacedebris or even reduce it? Yes. For sure this is somethingthat gets constantly monitored. There are assets on the groundof situational awareness where debris that might comeinto collision with Space Station is tracked andwe're very conservative.

If there is even a remote chancethat such a piece of debris will hit Space Station theground controllers will work together, again, Houston andMoscow will work together to plan and avoidance manoeuvre. So what happens here on SpaceStation, we are usually told, hey, guys, we aretracking a conjunction. That's how they're called. And as we get closer to the timewhere this conjunction might happen they will decide, OK,it's clearing up or well,.

We do have to move SpaceStation out of the way. Then they willturn on the engines and we will gently move towardslightly higher or lower orbit to get out of the way. But in general, it isindeed a serious problem. I mean, the orbitsaround the Earth, they're almost likea natural resource. Right? That is availableout there and you.

Have to preserve for use forfuture generations as well. I kind of like to compare itto aeronautical flight, right? I think somewhere in the 1940s,so mid of the last century, it was recognised that trafficwas going to increase more and more. So countries came together anddeveloped rules of air traffic management rulesso that we can all have millions of peopleflying every day safely around the world.

For space it's kind oflike the same thing. I know that there isan inter-agency debris coordination committeethat provides guidelines for agencies andprivate actors to follow and certainly that is valuable. Technology is partof the solution is going to reside in technology. I know ESA has an initiativefor a demonstrator that is going to fly.

It was like purchased let's say,by ESA as a service contract from a Swiss company I believe. That will demonstratethe ability to launch a device thatwill be able to dock to a piece of debris that's beenon orbit for almost a decade and safely de-orbit it,bring it back to Earth. So part of thesolution is regulatory. Let's all plan oursatellites and the operations of our satellites so thatthey do not stay in orbit.

They do not explode. They do not collide, sothey do not pose a threat. Then we need toclean up the debris that is already out thereand that definitely has a technological solution to it. Samantha, it's Peggy again. You talked about how busy theInternational Space Station is, how much busier it issince the time you were there in 2014.

But it's been upthere awhile and we know that, perhaps,there's a next step in space exploration beyond theInternational Space Station. What is your view ofwhat that should be? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there'stwo aspects to it. I mean, I thinkthat there's going to be a smooth transitionin low-earth orbit.

To private actors. There's some US companiesthat are definitely leading the way there, buthopefully there will also be more and moreEuropean actors who want to step in that areaof creating space stations or platforms for research inmicrogravity in low-earth orbit and those are going to bethe successors of the ISS. Then we have tolook beyond that. Going back to the moon,first to cislunar space.

And then on thesurface of the moon with obviouslythe long term goal of eventually getting to Mars. ESA, the European Space Agency,is very much a part of that. ESA provides this servicemodule for the Orion spacecraft that is going to bringastronauts to lunar orbit. So that is a complex and quitesignificant piece of hardware that ESA has developed involvingseven countries across Europe. There is gateway.

Gateway is going to be a SpaceStation, smaller than ISS, but much, much further outin orbit around the moon. ESA is providing the so-calledinternational habitat. So basically the mainhabitation module as well as other components. So this internationalcooperation is definitely continuing. It's one of the great legaciesI think of Space Station, that we showed that works,and it's productive,.

And it helps protect andpreserve such long-term programmes over the years thatare necessary for such complex developments. Samantha, it's Clive again. The private sectoris obviously going to play a very important rolein this expansion of space activities thatyou've described. I'd like you tosay briefly how you.

See the role of corporationsand companies in space? And in particular,are you worried, as some people are, about thegrowing mega constellations in low-Earth orbit and theirimpact on the environment? Yeah, I think that theimpact of mega constellations is certainly somethingthat needs to be managed. It goes a little bit backto what I mentioned earlier about the necessity ofmanaging the orbits,.

Kind of like on the groundwe manage the airspace. But of course, theyare also a source of potential for economicgrowth and benefits for society. Everything always bringspotential benefits and then potential risks thatneed to be managed. But in general, I thinkit's very exciting that there is so much interestin the private sector. And in fact, I'm veryhopeful that there will be more and moreinvestment in the sector.

Because I think that liberatesideas, and potential business opportunities, andpotential for innovation. Potential for drivingdown the costs of access to space, of operatingin space, so that, again, more and more actorscan enter this sector and participate with new ideas,new products, new services. So I think it's a virtuouscycle that I believe has started alreadyand I'm hopeful that it will continue to accelerate.

Thank you, Samantha. It's Peggy here and I thinkwe're on to our final question. So I'd like to knowfrom you, I mean, you're a wonderful example toeverybody, male and female, but we do know thereare still fewer female than male astronauts. Only two women and fivemen on the station. How can femaleparticipation, how should we increase femaleparticipation in space?.

Yeah. I do have a little bit of a morepositive view, I have to say. In my Dragon crew, thevehicle that I came up with, it was four of usand it was two of us were women, so 50 per cent. The Nasa Astronaut Corpsis incredibly diverse. The European Space Agency,we have not had a selection for over a decade.

So we haven't had time toupdate or our composition and catch up a little bit withthe development of society, but we have a selectionthat is ongoing now. And from the numberof female candidates and the quality of applicationsthat we have received, we know that thereis going to be a lot more women in the EuropeanAstronaut Corps as well. Of course, as an astronaut,it's my duty and my privilege to reach out, especiallyto young people,.

And try to make themexcited about space and Stem in general. And of course, hopefullyalso more and more women will consider thatcareer path and become future colleagues of oursin a capacity or another. But at the same time I'm quitehappy about the current trend. Yeah. I think we need to wrap up ina, well, in a couple of seconds.

So just the last word frommy side to really thank you, Samantha. It was always fantastic tohear you and to listen to you. You are such a role model. I can only repeat what Isaid already some time ago. So many people are inspired downhere on Earth by what you do and how you do it. And also being a femalecolleague of ours inspires also a lot of ourfemale young candidates.

Young girls who wantto become an astronaut. It's really beautiful to see. Maybe just a word on my side,gender balance diversity is a top priority of ESA,as you know, in agenda 25. I'm doing a selectionof the final candidates in a couple of monthsand this is certainly on top of my agenda as well. So thank you Samantha,it was a great pleasure. Thank you.

Continue well in your workand great applause down here from London. Thank you.FT interviews astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in space | FT

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