ESA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) today announced that they have chosen the name for the upcoming mission of astronaut Paolo Nespoli, a member of the STS-120 crew assigned to a Shuttle launch next October.
The mission has been dubbed Esperia from the Ancient Greek name for the Italian peninsula.
The choice of name reflects how Nespoli's Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will be a showcase for European technology, with the delivery of Italian-built Node 2. It also reflects the fact that this flight opportunity stems from the visionary involvement of ASI in providing three pressurised cargo containers (Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules, or MPLMs) to NASA under a bilateral agreement, with their development entrusted to Italian industry.
As a result of that agreement, ASI obtained six flight opportunities. The close cooperation between ESA and ASI led to the assignment of Nespoli, a member of the European Astronaut Corps, to this ASI flight opportunity. The first of these flight opportunities was taken up by Umberto Guidoni, who spent 10 days on board the ISS in April 2001.
An agreement between ESA and ASI for the joint management of this important mission was signed on 19 June 2007 at the Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, between ASI’s President, Professor Giovanni F. Bignami, and ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration, Daniel Sacotte.
In line with that arrangement, ASI entrusted the creation of a mission logo to world-famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and his ItalDesign SpA company under a sponsorship deal. The imaginative logo depicts how the Esperia mission is key to completing ISS assembly and also how it marks a step forward along the path of further exploration of space, an endeavour in which Italy and ASI are key players in Europe and in the international arena.
“Italy is one the main European players in space activities,” commented Simonetta di Pippo, Director for ASI’s space science and exploration (Osservazione dell’Universo) programme. “As the name suggests, the Esperia mission is an example of Italy’s long-term commitment to space exploration and of our vision and ambition for the future. It is also one more example of Italian industrial capabilities on which we rely to confirm our investments in European space programmes, in particular the Aurora exploration programme.”
The Esperia mission will be Nespoli’s first flight assignment. During the complex assembly mission, as a member of the STS-120 crew of seven, he will have a major role in installing Node 2 (built by Thales Alenia Space), coordinating activities from inside the Shuttle during four spacewalks. His other responsibilities will include conducting a joint ESA/ASI programme of human physiology and biology experiments, and assisting with the maintenance and operation of the orbiter’s onboard systems.
“The first European-built node to be launched, Node 2, is of crucial importance for the future of the ISS,” said Daniel Sacotte. “It will serve as a connecting passageway for ESA’s Columbus laboratory, the US Destiny laboratory and the Japanese Kibo laboratory, as well as the attachment point for the Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle. It will also carry a docking adapter for the Space Shuttle and serve as an attachment point for the MPLMs. Scientists and engineers around the world are eagerly awaiting the module’s safe delivery.”
A further aspect of the Esperia mission is the involvement of the Italian Ministry of Social Solidarity. In order to highlight the rights of all European citizens to equal opportunities, Nespoli will represent all European and Italian citizens during his flight and will carry into orbit a number of testimonials from that Ministry.
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