First Italian astronaut to be flown to the International Space Station on board a Russian spacecraft

Roberto Vittori will fly to the ISS on 25 April
21 February 2002

ESA PR 6-2002. 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".

Vittori during astronaut training in Russia
Roberto Vittori has been training at Star City since August

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

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