• Samantha Cristoforetti will be the fifth European commander of the ISS
  • The official handover ceremony will happen later this month
  • Cristoforetti is currently on the Minerva mission aboard the ISS

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Samantha Cristoforetti will soon be the commander of the International Space Station (ISS), making her the first European woman to take over the role.

Cristoforetti will officially take the reins from fellow-astronaut Oleg Artemyev in a handover ceremony on Sept. 28, the ESA announced in a news release. The Italian astronaut will become the fifth European to command the ISS and the first European female to do so.

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

The decision was made jointly by NASA, Roscosmos of Russia, JAXA of Japan, the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Considering Cristoforetti's contributions to the ISS, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher expressed confidence that the space station will "continue to thrive under her command."

The main roles of the commander include ensuring proper communication with the teams on Earth and handling responses during emergencies, according to the ESA. She will also oversee the crew's "performance and well-being."

"Samantha's wealth of knowledge and experience makes her an excellent candidate for this role," the ESA's director of human and robotic exploration, David Parker, said. "As the first European woman to fulfill the position of commander, she once again pushes forward boundaries for female representation in the space sector."

"There is no doubt that her leadership will ensure continued mission success," added Frank De Winne, the ESA's head of the European Astronaut Centre and ISS program manager.

Cristoforetti is currently on the Minerva mission aboard the ISS. Once a part of the Italian Air Force, she is also a UNICEF ambassador and even donates the proceeds from her 2018 memoir, "Diary Of An Apprentice Astronaut," to the organization.

She holds honorary degrees from the University of Pavia, Politecnico di Torino and Vrije Universitaet Amsterdam. In 2015, she received the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, which is the "highest ranking honor of the Republic."

Cristoforetti often shares stunning photos from aboard the ISS on Twitter. Recently, she shared incredible photos of the "most stunning" auroras.

She is also active on Tiktok and is reportedly the first astronaut to communicate through the platform.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti participates in the Circadian Rhythms experiment during her mission on the International Space Station in 2014–15, in this photograph released June 8, 2017. NASA/ESA