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Nespoli in space with VITA

The Italian astronaut is travelling towards the International Space Station (ISS) for the third time

VITA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) mission, is under way and will take Paolo Nespoli to the International Space Station. European Space Agency (ESA)’s Italian astronaut left Earth at 5:41 pm Italian time, from the Russian base of Baikonur in Kazakhstan, aboard the Soyuz MS-05 capsule. Along with Nespoli, the Russian commander Sergei Ryazansky and the American astronaut Randy Bresnik are also on board. 

VITA, the acronym for Vitality, Innovation, Technology, Ability, is the name of ASI's third long-term mission with a logo inspired by the Third Paradise by the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. During his stay on the International Space Station (ISS) Paolo Nespoli's task will be to follow over 200 experiments; among these, 11 were selected by ASI. The majority of the experiments are biomedical, while the remaining are technological.

The VITA mission is part of the strategic partnership between ASI and NASA set out in the MPLM bilateral agreement. The agreement establishes that ASI shall provide the American space agency with three MPLMs (Multi-Purpose Pressurized Modules); one of them transformed into a permanent ISS module. Against this provision, NASA shall guarantee the Italian Space Agency opportunities of flight to the International Space Station. 

This mission is characterised by the number three: it is Paolo Nespoli's third mission, it is ASI's third long-term mission and, lastly, the Third Paradise by Pistoletto is the symbol of the VITA mission. In the two previous missions, Nespoli remained in orbit for a total of 174 days: the first, ESPERIA, a short-term mission in 2007, on board the STS-120 Discovery shuttle; the second, MagISStra, a long-term mission in 2010, with Soyuz TMA-20. The Italian astronaut, selected by ASI in 1998, turned 60 in April this year and, along with his flight companions, he will take part in the ISS programme's 52/52 Expedition, which is scheduled to return to Earth in December and will land in the desert in the central region of Kazakhstan.

 

“To me it is a great pleasure and honour to have shared today the beginning of this ASI new mission and Paolo Nespoli’s latest journey. It is a symbol representing the exploration towards space and life borders, that is necessary for humankind in order to go ahead, to believe in the future and to leave a beneficial legacy to next generations”, commented the Minister of Education, University and Research Valeria Fedeli

“It is very important to have an Italian astronaut on board the ISS - added the Minister - because Nespoli presence means that behind him there is a system that works and achieves high-level outcomes. It is the Italian space system that, starting from ASI and passing through other research bodies, universities and industries, confirms and grows its excellence and competitiveness: it is realized through the education of women and man working in this field, through scientists ability in undertaking the most interesting ways in space research and through industries ability in experimenting technical cutting-edge solutions. Italy has an idea and a strong point of view on space and is able to influence all the international space community”. 

“Paolo Nespoli's energy, professionalism and skills guarantee the success of his third space adventure. Paolo is in excellent shape. We could define him ‘Paolo - the power of three’, said ASI's president, Roberto Battiston. “The International Space Station is a wonderful common house of science and technology where ASI has a permanent scientific presidium, thanks to the agreements with NASA. This is because Italy has made fundamental contributions to its creation: about 50% of the modules where astronauts live and work were built in Turin. Furthermore, the VITA mission experiments are very important because they will give us significant indications regarding missions beyond low orbits, with a view to man's landing on Mars.” 

“ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli’s mission – the 25th mission for an European astronaut on board the ISS – emphasizes again” says Elena Grifoni Winters, Head of ESA Director General's Cabinet “the essential presence of Europe in human space exploration”.

The VITA mission is the third flight of an Italian astronaut in four years. The previous flights were Luca Parmitano's Volare mission in 2013 and Samantha Cristoforetti's Futura, both ASI long-term missions. In all, there are seven Italian astronauts, five of whom have stayed on the Space Station. The 25th anniversary of Franco Malerba’s flight - the first Italian to be launched into space - will be celebrated in the coming days. Maurizio Cheli and Umberto Guidoni’s missions followed on, as well as the three performed by Roberto Vittori and Nespoli, Parmitano and Cristoforetti’s missions. This all confirms our country's leading role in the space field, with specific reference to human flight.