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Space station has two women astronauts onboard for long-term mission

After years of training for their first space mission, the last thing Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy and Elana Serova, of Russia want to dwell on is the fact they are women. However, the fact that both are now together manning the International Space Station (ISS) is a rarity.

According to a Nov. 24 ABC News report, it marks the second time in the space station’s 16-year history that two women make up the long-term, six-member crew. Cristoforetti, 37, landed on the space station on Nov. 24 and joined Serova, 38, for complete a six-month mission in space.

Cristoferetti became not only the first Italian female in space, but the first person to sample a proper short black coffee at zero gravity. Cristoforetti will be able to get her morning caffeine fix after celebrated Italian coffee makers Lavazza teamed up with space food specialist engineering firm Argotec to create a special and lightweight machine.

Both Serova and Cristoforetti will spend time together aboard the 260-mile-high complex, following in the footsteps of nine American women who logged lengthy stays. Two of those U.S. women shared the place in 2010, with four men. Another two women rose to station commander rank.

According to ABC News, Serova and Cristoforetti’s joint flight comes as U.S. medical researchers take an updated look at gender differences in space. With space station missions spanning a half-year and expected to last considerably longer on trips to Mars, NASA wants to make sure all astronauts – male and female alike – stay safe and healthy.

Cristoforetti, Anton Shkaplerov and American astronaut Terry Virtz are to stay at the space station until May 2015.

The ISS is a joint project funded mostly by NASA but astronauts are transported there only by Russia after the U.S. ended its space shuttle program in 2011.