President of the Italian Republic and ESA astronaut Nespoli meet in Florence together with NASA astronauts Altman and Massimino
On 17 December, Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, met with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA astronauts Scott Altman and Michael Massimino from the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-125 mission, launched in May 2009, and the Director of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Paolo Galluzzi.
The meeting was organised as part of the European STS-125 post-flight tour, sponsored by ESA to raise the awareness among European citizens of the importance of human spaceflight for our society.
The STS-125 mission focused on repairing and strengthening the delicate mechanisms of the Hubble Space Telescope which involved carrying out five challenging spacewalks. During their mission to Hubble, the STS-125 astronauts also commemorated the 400th anniversary of Galileo's astronomical discoveries by pointing to the stars a replica of Galileo’s telescope on loan from the Institute and Museum of the History of Science of Florence.
Today, the replica of Galileo’s telescope will be returned to Florence by the STS-125 Commander, Scott Altman and Mission Specialist, Michael Massimino, where it will have a place of honour in the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, the future Galileo Museum. The handover will be done in a public ceremony during which Altman and Massimino, accompanied by Paolo Nespoli will be received at the Palazzo Vecchio by the Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, Paolo Galluzzi and Francesco Palla, Director of the Astrophysics Observatory in Arcetri.
When asked about the relevance of this event, Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight, said that "thanks to the collaboration between the Institute and Museum of the History of Science of Florence, ESA and NASA, we have created a virtual but no less significant link between one of the greatest success stories in the history of science in Italy and in the world, and the current exploration of space. Today's astronauts are flying on the wings of desire to explore, which is part of human nature. Europe has always played an important role in exploration, yesterday as today. Now that human spaceflights and space exploration are a global ambition, Europe must succeed in having a role at the level of its traditions, economic means and technical and scientific capacity.”
NASA astronauts Altman and Massimino started their Italian tour by participating in a “Spacewalkers” event together with Nespoli and Tommaso Maccacaro, President of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), which took place on 16 December in the Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Rome. At the event, they presented details of their Hubble Space Telescope maintenance and repair mission. First pictures from the new Hubble Space Telescope and extracts from the recent documentary "Saving Hubble" were also shown.