After spending 200 days in orbit (199 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes to be exact), Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) broke the record for longest time spent in space on a single mission for a female astronaut.
Prior to the 38-year-old’s impressive milestone, the record was held by NASA’s Sunita “Suni” Williams of 194 days, 18 hours and two minutes in space.
Cristoforetti was with two other individuals during her assignment, namely NASA’s Terry Virts and Russian Anton Shkaplerov. All three astronauts spent time in the International Space Station (ISS), where they performed delicate experiments, contributed to the upkeep of the massive spacecraft and gazed at the stars in zero gravity.
The trio’s return was delayed due to a mishap involving a Russian rocket carrying an unmanned Progress cargo capsule. Officials were forced to launch an immediate investigation after the accident, which caused the group’s return to be rescheduled.
The unforeseen event was a blessing in disguise for Cristoforetti. After receiving confirmation from the ground crew, the astronauts re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed roughly 90 miles southeast of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
Tweeting from Space
During the mission, Cristoforetti kept everyone on Earth updated about the surreal journey. She filled her Twitter account with unique, breathtaking content and ideas. Prior to the team’s descent, the astronaut sent out a final inspiring tweet, which read:
“Early start into Day 200 in #space. It’s been an amazing journey, thx for coming along! Now time to go home to Earth.”
The ISS resident also took photos of major cities and countries from the orbiting lab. For the images that were difficult to make out (the view from space apparently makes Earth look like a snow globe or a Petri dish), Cristoforetti added brief captions and catchy hashtags.
Having a Blast in Zero Gravity
One of her many duties included maintaining the ship’s research center. The ISS has a total of three modern laboratories where scientists conduct zero gravity experiments. When the ESA astronaut wasn’t working on the lab, she was documenting her daily space adventures through a series of short video clips.
Cristoforetti demonstrated what it was like to cook hearty meals while floating around in a tight pod. Individuals on board the ISS were permitted to bring some of their favorite comfort foods to supplement their experience. For the Italian space advocate, one of her notable meals included a quinoa salad with dried tomatoes, mackerel and leek cream, all wrapped in a warm tortilla.
Due to limited room in the station, astronauts must adhere to a closely monitored diet to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
In another video, she covered the basics of a gym workout in space. Weights offer little resistance without gravity. Because of this, the team relied on a system that mimicked the same type of pressure using a hydraulic-like apparatus.
Perhaps the most interesting clip was a shot of Cristoforetti getting a haircut. In the video, she was holding a vacuum cleaner while Virts carefully trimmed small chunks of her hair to welcome the New Year.