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ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti looks out the window of the cupola while the International Space Station flies above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru.

Taken earlier this month, this image captures one of Samantha’s favourite things to do in space – in addition to performing research or spacewalks – looking down on our beautiful planet –  and one of the precious last views she’ll get from the Station’s ‘window to the world’, known as the Cupola, as she wraps up the end of her mission Minerva.

Samantha and fellow expedition 68 crew members NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins are finally headed home today – weather permitting. Their return, scheduled for earlier in the week, has been delayed due to bad conditions at the landing site, off the coast of Florida, USA.

Samantha’s Minerva mission began on 27 April 2022, when she was launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre, USA, in the Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom.

As part of her Minerva mission, Samantha supported numerous European experiments and many more international experiments in microgravity. These experiments covered a wide range of disciplines.

While this mission was not her first to the International Space Station, it was packed full of groundbreaking moments: Samantha completed her first spacewalk in an Orlan suit, outfitting the European Robotic Arm alongside Oleg Artemyev; Samantha assumed the role of Space Station commander on 28 September, making her the fifth European, and first European woman, to hold the leadership position of the International Space Station; becoming the first astronaut to take their science communication to TikTok. Her account became a treasure-trove of glimpses into what life is like aboard the Space Station, engaging her followers’ curiosity in how it worked and what she got up to day-to-day.

Read more memories from mission Minerva here.

Watch Crew-4's return live on ESAwebTV Channel 2. Crew-4 is scheduled to undock 17:35 CEST (16:35 BST) on Friday 14 October. Splashdown is expected at 22:50 CEST (21:50 BST).

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