2 May 2001
ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni returned to Earth yesterday, 1 May, proud to have become the first European astronaut to set foot on the International Space Station.
Space Shuttle Endeavour with its seven-strong crew made a safe re-entry at 19:11 (Central European Summer Time) at the Edwards Air Force Base after an 11-day mission, which delivered and returned the European-developed Multi-purpose Pressurised Logistics Module (MPLM) and attached the Station's new 17 metre Canadian robotic arm.
The mission delivered ten tonnes of equipment to the Station inside the 'Raffaello' MPLM, including six experiment racks and two storage racks for the US Destiny laboratory as well as a UHF antenna, supplies for the astronauts and other equipment for future construction and maintenance work.
Guidoni was instrumental in the success of the mission, taking control of all logistical operations involved with the MPLM and overseeing the unloading of all the experiments and equipment into the Station.
"It was a highly complicated and intensive task," said Guidoni, who spent nearly five years training for his trip to the Station. "I feel relieved that it all went so smoothly and very proud to have been the first astronaut to represent Europe on the Space Station".
The Raffaello is one of three MPLMs. Developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and built by Alenia Aerospazio (I), it is the only module capable of delivering specially prepared racks of experiments to the Station.
Each MPLM has been designed to perform 25 missions over a ten-year lifespan and will act as a kind of sophisticated 'removal van', delivering and returning crucial experimental payloads back and forth to Earth.
With the delivery of some of the first experiments, the STS-100 mission opened a new chapter in the story of the Space Station. Most missions have until now been exclusively involved in construction. "Now the Station can at last begin to be used for its intended research purposes" said Guidoni.
The International Space Station is being constructed by the world's major space powers, including Europe, represented by the European Space Agency, the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan.