Buona notte da terra @AstroSamantha

When she left earth on November 23, 2014 for the International Space Station, astronaut Samantha Christoforetti had 143,000 Twitter followers who had tracked her training to launch day. Today, a month before she returns to earth, her followers have grown to 430,000. How can you not explore space with the first female Italian astronaut, who brought a specially designed espresso machine to the ISS?

The 37 year old, Milan born captain in the Italian Air Force is single-handedly dragging us back into the wonder of space exploration.

Forget the AT&T U-verse commercial that imagines a day when we finally walk on Mars, Captain Christoforetti captures the imagination with her tweets and photos. Most evenings her followers are wished “Buona notte dallo spazio.” (Good night from space.) It’s like getting an answer to ‘Goodnight, Moon’.

Her breathtaking photos remind us of our global interconnection. On Sunday she sent ‘colors of the earth’ in lieu of easter eggs. Monday, the UK at night, challenging followers to identify the city centers. Tuesday, Sri Lanka and India. And yesterday, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

How many girls of a certain age imagined themselves as a young Amelia Earhart? Who in the current astronaut corps found their first role model in Sally Ride? Where is the 5th grader who is following Samantha and planning her dream career?

There was a time when we could name all the astronauts. We remembered where we were at those moments of great discovery and great tragedy in the space program. We were inspired, knowing there was a frontier beyond the bounds of our atmosphere.

We need more Samanthas and Sallys and Amelias. We need to reimagine a workplace of exploration and innovation circling earth and traveling to galaxies ‘where no man or woman has gone before’.

Tonight, join me in wishing ‘Buona notte da terra @AstroSamantha’.

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