Italian astronaut joins race for moon mission

italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has thrown her hat into the ring to become the first European to land on the moon.

as part of Artemis ProgramThe United States is aiming to send astronauts back to the Moon later this decade and the European Space Agency is in talks to secure a seat on one of the trips to the lunar surface.

Cristoforetti said, “If things happen that way that I have the opportunity to land on the moon, of course I would love to do that.” european space conference Wednesday in Brussels.

ESA provides service module to Artemis in exchange for seats on manned space missions. As it stands, ESA has secured three positions under the barter deal, but it has yet to receive a commitment to land on the Moon.

Cristoforetti, who returned last year from a mission to command the International Space Station, will face stiff competition for any future seat.

In December, French President Emmanuel Macron opened the race He supported French astronaut Thomas Pesquet during a visit to NASA’s headquarters with US Vice President Kamala Harris to land a European on the surface of the Moon.

Speaking at the European Space Conference, ESA Director General Joseph Eschbacher said the chances of seeing “European boots on the Moon” were “very good” and that talks were ongoing with their counterparts at NASA.

“Whenever we have a slot, the allocation will be done two to three years in advance,” Eschbacher said.

Cristoforetti is the only woman in the world current batch number of European astronauts, although it is not yet clear whether Rome will put the same political backing behind any plan to send him to the Moon.

Italy’s now-prime minister Giorgia Meloni last year congratulated Cristoforetti praised his “determination and passion” for taking on the role of commander of the ISS.