Italian astronaut heading for new heights

He may be ESA’s youngest astronaut but Roberto Vittori’s military training and flying experience have prepared him well for his mission to the International Space Station.

After graduating from the Italian Air Force Academy in 1989, Vittori rapidly climbed the ranks completing his basic training with the US Air Force at Reese Air Force Base in 1990.

He spent four years between 1991 and 1994 flying Tornado GRI aircraft with the 155th Squadron, 50th Wing in Piacenza, Italy, where he qualified for day/night air-to-air refuelling and became a formation leader.

Vittori graduated in 1995 from the US Navy Test Pilot School in Texas and then served at the Italian Test Centre as project pilot for the development of the new European EuroFighter aircraft until 1998.

In the same year Vittori was selected as an astronaut by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and a month later he joined ESA’s European Astronaut Corps. In August 1998 he relocated to Houston, Texas, and joined NASA’s Mission Specialist Class – a training programme qualifying astronauts for future assignments on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station – at the Johnson Space Center.

In the summer of last year he took up training to prepare for this April’s Soyuz ‘taxi’ mission to the Space Station as a Flight Engineer.

Roberto Vittori and his wife, Valeria, have two children aged five and eight, and when his busy schedule allows, he enjoys soccer, running, swimming and reading.

Last update: 23 April 2002

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