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The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule carrying ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert “Bob” Hines and Jessica Watkins to the International Space Station lifts off from Launchpad 39A.

Collectively known as Crew-4, the four astronauts were launched at 08:52 BST/09:52 CEST Wednesday 27 April from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida USA. Transit to the Station is expected to take under 24 hours.

Samantha is the third ESA astronaut to travel to the orbital outpost in a Crew Dragon. During the journey she and Jessica will serve as mission specialists. Kjell is Crew-4 Commander and Bob is Crew-4 Pilot.

Upon arrival, Crew-4 will be greeted by the Space Station’s current crew – including ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. Samantha and Matthias will enjoy a brief handover in orbit before he returns to Earth with Crew-3 in April.

Samantha first flew to space in 2014 for her Italian Space Agency ASI-sponsored mission Futura. Her ESA space mission – known as Minerva – will officially begin once she reaches the Station.

Throughout her mission, Samantha will hold the role of US Orbital Segment (USOS) lead, taking responsibility for all operations within the US, European, Japanese and Canadian modules and components of the Space Station. She will support around 35 European and many more international experiments in orbit.

For more about Samantha and her Minerva mission, visit the Minerva mission page.

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