Alessandra Luciano holds images of Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Photo: Alessandra Luciano
CNA digital curator Alessandra Luciano looks to the boundaries of human endeavour for her female role model, the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who was the first human to brew an espresso outside of Earth.
The space race has known some rad women. Pioneers in their professional but also in their private lives. Advancing the science that would lead to satellite technologies, furthering research and our knowledge about the universe, and thus putting man not only into orbit but also on the moon.
Some of these women such as Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, Mary Winston Jackson and Dorothy Johnson Vaughan have finally left the dark side of the moon and have come fully into light through the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures” (Theodore Melfi). I have to admit that despite the white saviour narrative I thoroughly enjoyed that movie. As an amateur space nerd and feminist seeing how much these women have contributed to society, but also how we ultimately have forgotten them because of their gender, and in this case race, makes me simultaneously proud to be a woman as to what we can achieve in the face of adversity and of course enraged at the blatant injustice.
I can also talk about Nancy Grace Roman an astronomer and first female executive at NASA, who planned the Hubble Space Telescope, or Margaret Hamilton who wrote part of the code that landed Apollo 11 on the moon. She also ran a lab at MIT and is credited for coining the term “software engineering”. Both these women surely faced constant skepticism and criticism because they were not just wives, but bad-ass intelligent women, the kind to revolutionise their field at work and at home.
For my female role model, however, I would like to talk about Astro Sam, or her legal name Samantha Cristoforetti. She is not only an Italian ESA astronaut, a fighter jet pilot but also a captain in the Italian Air Force. Between 2014 and 2015 she spent 199 consecutive days on the International Space Station, where she conducted research and various experiments. Until 2016 she held the world record for longest uninterrupted time in space by a woman (record later broken by another kick-ass woman Peggy Whitson). Astro Sam was also the first Italian woman in space, and most importantly the very first human to brew an espresso outside earth.
There is a beautiful picture of her in the National Geographic’s edition about space flight, she sits in what could be a lunar landscape in her space suit, she has a sweet smile as her gaze is turned away from the lens, but what strikes me most is not the woman in the suit nor her amazing short haircut, or the knowledge that she is part of an elite club that has seen earth in all of its complexities, no it’s her pearl earring. Her photo spreads across two pages in the magazine, but my focus is on that particular detail. To me for some reason the choice she made to wear jewellery for the photoshoot points to various degrees it means to be a woman and that there are no defining characteristics for either gender.
Finally, as I watched her Soyuz capsule crash unto earth (there is no other way to describe a Soyuz landing), I felt immense pride in the knowledge that as a young Italian woman she is not only a pioneer in her own right, but is also in line with and the consequence of the work of so many women that came before her.
So not only is my female role model a shootout to Astro Sam, but to our legacies and ultimately to mother Earth.
 This was a collaboration with Lavazza, in which they designed an espresso maker and cups for the ISS. Once Italians were on the ISS their complaints often regarded the quality of the coffee.
Alessandra Luciano was born in Italy and raised in Luxembourg. She studied film at Exeter University and Columbia University and moving image preservation and presentation at the University of Amsterday. Today she works for the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA) in Luxembourg as digital curator. She credits her love of space to pop and visual culture.
Do you have a woman in your life who has inspired you? In celebration of International Women’s Day, we want to hear from you. Send us a mail to [email protected] with your story and photo, or share your story on social media with the tag #myfemalerolemodel