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In a long list of my favorite astronauts, Sam Cristoforetti is near the top. She is an Italian space traveler with the European Space Agency, and there are a lot of reasons I like her: She has great taste in books, she is enthusiastic and unabashedly excited about space exploration, and—perhaps most importantly—she’s a nerd.
She’s a science-fiction fan, and she used this as a basis to give a TEDx talk about what living on the International Space Station is like. She should know; she spent 200 days on ISS as part of Expedition 42 (and of course she makes a Hitchhiker’s joke).
Did you catch all the Star Trek jokes? She mentions the Borg at 8:10, for example. And this part I love: One of the resupply missions planned during her time on ISS was scheduled to bring up an Italian espresso machine. Knowing this, she brought up a Star Trek Voyager command uniform to cosplay when she got her first cup from the device. A running gag during the show was that Captain Janeway was always looking for a better way to get the replicators to make coffee. Looking for minerals they need, Janeway utters a line repeated by Cristoforetti on Twitter:
See? That’s why I like her. And also she’s a wonderful speaker and a fantastic advocate for humans in space.
Astronauts are like us normal people, but also different. They’ve been to space. The few I have met have been warm, gracious, dedicated, sharply intelligent, and also committed to the idea that the future of humanity is in space.
I feel exactly the same way. Maybe they’re not all that different after all.