Italy's Samantha Cristoforetti to be first European woman to command International Space Station

AstroSam to become fifth European commander of ISS.

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is to become the first European woman to command the International Space Station (ISS), the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

Cristoforetti, popularly known in Italy as AstroSam, will take over from fellow Expedition 67 crew member Oleg Artemyev on 28 September in a handover ceremony to be broadcast live on ESA Web TV.

In her new role, Cristoforetti will become the fifth European commander of the ISS - following in the footsteps of fellow Italian Luca Parmitano - as well as becoming the first European woman to hold the position.

“I am humbled by my appointment to the position of commander" - Cristoforetti said - “and look forward to drawing on the experience I’ve gained in space and on Earth to lead a very capable team in orbit.”

The 45-year-old astronaut - Italy's first woman in space - will be the third woman ISS commander in the world after two Americans, Sunita Williams and Shannon Walker.

Cristoforetti, a former Italian Air Force pilot, holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a European astronaut (199 days, 16 hours), and until June 2017 held the record for the longest single space flight by a woman.