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N° 6–2002: First Italian astronaut to be flown to the International Space Station on board a Russian spacecraft

21 February 2002

ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori (*) will become the first Italian to lift off from Baikonur on board a Russian Soyuz vehicle on 25 April 2002, when he starts a ten-day mission - codenamed 'Marco Polo' - to the International Space Station.

ASI is the agency sponsoring this flight and the related experimental programme, under the terms of a framework agreement between the European Space Agency on the one hand and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos) and the Russian company RSC Energia on the other.

The mission is a further mark of Europe's determination to intensify its fruitful cooperation with Russia, as ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, Jörg Feustel-Büechl, confirms: "Roberto Vittori's mission to the International Space Station is another important milestone in the Euro-Russian cooperation which is contributing to the strategic development of both partners. It is one of a series of flight opportunities for European astronauts; the next is planned for October".

A test pilot and Lieutenant Colonel in the Italian Air Force, Roberto Vittori, one of three Italian astronauts selectioned by ASI in the European Astronaut Corps, will be Flight Engineer on the Soyuz vehicle, alongside the Russian Soyuz Commander, Yuri Gidzenko, and Flight Participant Mark Shuttleworth, from South Africa. He will spend 8 days on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

The main objectives of the 'Marco Polo' mission are to exchange the Station's current Soyuz vehicle, which serves as the main emergency rescue craft for the Space Station crew, and to carry out a number of ASI and ESA experiments on board the ISS.

ASI experiments: Alteino, to study the effects of cosmic particles on brain functions; Chiro, to monitor impairment of muscle function in weightlessness conditions; Vest, to validate the in-orbit functionality of garments designed to reduce the weight and volume of astronaut's clothing.

ESA experiment : BMI, an instrument measuring blood pressure.

Roberto Vittori has been training for his qualification as Flight Engineer in Russia at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, near Moscow, since August.

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations

Franco Bonacina

Tel. ++ 33 1 5369 7155

Fax. ++ 33 1 5369 7690

ASI Press Office

Francesco Rea

Tel. ++39 06 8567 235

Fax. ++39 06 8416 265

(*) Curriculum Vitae of Roberto Vittori

European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut

Personal Data:

Born on 15 October 1964 in Viterbo, Italy. Married to Valeria (née Nardi) of Citta' di Castello, Italy. They have two children. Enjoys soccer, running, swimming and reading.


Graduated from the Italian Air Force Academy in 1989. Completed basic training with the US Air Force at Reese Air Force Base in Texas, in 1990. Graduated from the US Navy Test Pilot School in 1995. Completed the Italian Air Force's Accident Prevention course (Guidonia AFB, Italy) and Accident Investigation course (Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, US) between 1996 and 1997.

Special Honours:

Academic award at the Undergraduate Pilot Training, Reese Air Force Base, Texas. Honour student at the Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland. Honour student at the United States Flight Safety School, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Italian Air Force Long Service Medal (1997).


Following completion of undergraduate pilot training in 1990, Roberto Vittori flew Tornado GR1 aircraft with the 155th Squadron, 50th Wing, Piacenza, Italy from 1991 to 1994. During that time, he qualified for day/night air-to-air refuelling and as a formation leader.

In 1995 he completed the US Navy Test Pilot School training. He then served at the Italian Test Centre as project pilot for the development of the new European aircraft, the EuroFighter EF2000, until 1998. From 1996 to 1998 he was the national representative in the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) research and development programme.

In 1997 he attended the US Air Force Flight Safety School and from 1997 to 1998 was wing Flight Safety Officer at the Italian Test Centre. He was also a teacher of aerodynamics on the Italian Air Force's Accident Investigation Course.

Roberto Vittori is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Italian Air Force. He has logged nearly 2000 hours in over 40 different aircraft including F-104, Tornado GR1, F-18, AMX, M-2000, G-222 and P-180.

In July 1998 he was selected as an astronaut by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in cooperation with ESA, and a month later joined the European Astronaut Corps, whose homebase is ESA's European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

In August 1998 he was relocated to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and entered the 1998 training programme qualifying astronauts for assignments on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Roberto Vittori completed his mission specialist training and also performed technical duties in the Space Shuttle Operations Systems Branch.

Current Assignment:

In July 2001 Roberto Vittori was assigned to a taxi-flight to the International Space Station in April 2002, under an agreement between the Russian Space Agency Rosaviakosmos, the Italian Space Agency ASI and ESA. In August 2001 he took up his training as Flight Engineer at Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (Star City) near Moscow.

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)

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