Transcript of Roberto Vittori Chat

Q = Roberto, are you ready for the ISS?
A = Yes, I’m ready for my mission.

Q = When are you going to Baikonur for the Soyuz check?
A = Saturday April 13 I’m going to Baikonur for the Soyuz check.

Q = Roberto, do you have an astronaut/cosmonaut as your example?
A = Yes, I do: John Young.

Q = Roberto, what will be the first thing you do when you’re in Earth orbit?
A = Watch the Earth from space!

Q = Which kind of physical preparation are you doing at the moment?
A = Most of the physical preparation is done with a rotating chair.

Q = Will there be women on the ISS when you’re there?
A = No, not this time, but there have been in the past.

Q = Don’t you think a 10 day mission is a bit short?
A = No, I don’t think so. A lot of things can be done in 10 days!

Q = Do you think space medicine will be of use to people on Earth?
A = Absolutely, it will be useful for all of us.

Q = Would you like to stay on the ISS for a longer time, let’s say a month?
A = I hope to be able to go for a longer mission in the future.

Q = Roberto, how do you feel about flying with a space tourist?
A = I think Mark Shuttleworth is a very nice guy.

Q = Roberto, was it difficult to learn Russian?
A = At the beginning yes. Now it’s going much better.

Q = Will it be difficult to approach and make contact with the ISS?
A = Yes, the docking is one of the most complex aspects of the flight.

Q = Would you like to take part in a mission to Mars?
A = Yes, I would love to go visit Mars.

Q = Would you like to fly in the Space Shuttle?
A = Yes, and I hope to be able to do so in the near future.

Q = Is the Russian ship confortable? Will you be able to stand up during your trip?
A = The Russian ship is very small, and no I won’t be able to stand up while working.

Q = Did you have the chance to see the new Soyuz TMA simulator, and what do you think of the improvements?
A = Yes, I’ve had the chance to see it, and there are some improvements in the cockpit.

Q = Roberto, aren’t space tourists a burden for the regular crew? I imagine they need looking after…
A = Mark is a very clever guy, and probably won’t need much help!

Q = Roberto, what do you think will be the most unpleasant part of the trip?
A = After insertion into orbit, my body will have to get used to the microgravity… that may be the most unpleasant part.

Q = Do you think that we’ll have an ISS European commander in the future? And an Italian one?
A = Yes, I think one day we will have a European commander for the ISS… and an Italian one!

Q = Why did you decide to become an astronaut?
A = So I could fly in space!

Q = Roberto, on the ISS, in what language will you guys communicate?
A = We’ll be communicating in English and Russian.

Q = Roberto, can you tell us something about the period between entering the capsule and the actual launch?
A = You enter the capsule 2 hours before the launch.

Q = I heard you are using a physical training method named “Whole Body Vibration” that helps prevent bone loss. Will you promote the use of this method for normal people after the flight?
A = If it works well…. Yes!

Q = Roberto, how is Gidzenko?
A = Gidzenko is a very nice guy.

Q = Could you bring me back a star?
A = With pleasure!

Q = Roberto, will you be making some kind of contact from space like Guidoni?
A = Yes, by amateur radio connections, phone calls, SMS, and video conferences.

Q = Will your family be there to watch the launch?
A = Yes, my wife will be there.

Q = Do you think that ESA astronauts will have flight opportunities on Chinese spacecraft as they have on Soyuz?
A = Chinese spacecrafts still have to prove themselves beforehand.

Q = Any differences in mission preparation in the US and in Star City?
A = There are many differences….

Q = Is the REM phase and deep sleep the same in space as on Earth?
A = This is still under study.

Q = Roberto, what kind of problems do long durations in microgravity bring to the body?
A = Loss of muscle tone and osteoporosis are the principal problems.

Q = Is this your first time going into space?
A = Yes it is.

Q = Do you think that one day we will be able to go for a ride in space as easily as we can now go shopping?
A = Yes I do, and I don’t think it will be too long before we can….

Q = Did you train for this mission in swimming pools?
A = For this mission it was not required. I will train in swimming pools when I return.

Q = Which is harder, training to be a pilot, or training to be an astronaut?
A = They are both intense.

Q = How many astronauts will be with you on the ISS?
A = In total we will be 6.

Q = How do you imagine the ISS of the future?
A = I imagine it bigger than it is now.

Q = Do you already know your next assignment after this mission? Any future plans?
A = I hope to fly again soon.

Q = What will be the temperature in the Soyuz?
A = It will be around 20 – 25 degrees.

Q = Can Ariane go to the ISS?
A = No, Ariane is not designed to go to the ISS.

Q = Roberto, will you bring a present to the ISS crew?
A = I’ll probably bring them some chocolates.

Q = Will you bring some Italian food with you?
A = Italian food is already included in our diet onboard!

Q = Will you try to keep your emotions hidden, and just show your professional side while among the stars?
A = I hope there will be room for both my emotional and professional sides.

Q = Roberto, will you sleep on the ISS or the Soyuz?
A = I will sleep on the ISS.

Q = Roberto, are you sleeping at the Star City Hotel?
A = No I’m not.

Q = Are you happy about the work together with the World Health Organisation?
A = Yes I am. It is good to see that there are common interests among health organizations and space agencies.

Q = Have you met any of the future space tourists?
A = I’ve only met Mark Shuttleworth.

Q = How do you expect flying in weightlessness will be?
A = In the first few days it will surely be a strange feeling!

Q = Is floating in space any different than swimming underwater?
A = Yes there’s a very big difference, because in water there is friction.

Q = Will the Soyuz be the capsule used by Frank de Winne to come back next time?
A = Yes.

Q = Where do you train to become an astronaut for ESA?
A = The training is done in Russia or the States, and in the future it will also be done in Cologne, Germany.

Q = Do you think there will come a day that we can go to the moon for a weekend?
A = Yes I do. Probably soon.

Q = What will you be doing after your flight?
A = After the mission I will be in Italy for 2 months, and then I will go back to Houston.

Q = What happens when you need to go to the bathroom?
A = We have toilet facilities that work like a vacuum.

Q = Will there be an ESA astronaut selection in the coming years?
A = Yes, there should be one in the next 3 or 4 years.

Q = Did you always want to be an astronaut, or did it become an idea after you’d done other things?
A = First I became a pilot, and then I decided to also become an astronaut.

Q = What will be the next steps in your career? A longer flight?
A = I certainly hope so!

Q = What is the maximum age to go into space?
A = There is no maximum age.

Q = How is it like working with the Russians?
A = It’s a very nice experience. At the beginning it was a bit difficult because of the language barrier, but now it’s ok.

Q = Are you calm, or do you feel scared?
A = Yes I’m calm, and I’m looking forward to the flight!

Q = How much time does it take for the Shuttle to leave the atmosphere?
A = It takes the Shuttle about 20 minutes.

Q = Which university did you go to?
A = I went to the Aeronautical Academy here in Italy.

Q = Did you enjoy it there?
A = Yes I enjoyed it very much, although they were 4 years of hard work.

Q = Is it true that being in the army helped you become an astronaut?
A = I think that being a pilot is important.

Q = Why is the capsule called Soyuz?
A = Soyuz means “union”. Mir means “peace”.

Q = How does it feel to know that you will soon be orbiting our homeworld, inside one of the most advanced and complex structures ever built by man?
A = It’s very exciting.

Q = I see that Gidzenko is flying again after disappearing for a year. Political reasons, or nostalgia for the ISS?
A = He is one of the best commanders in Russia.

Q = Does the ISS have any good facilities (e.g. McDonald’s)?
A = No facilities at the moment… maybe in the future?

Q = Do you get to sleep in the Soyuz on the way to the ISS?
A = Yes.

Q = How do you know for sure that you will sleep at a specific time?
A = I don’t.

Q = What is the maximum weight of personal belongings that you can bring with you?
A = A kilo and a half.

Q = Since there are talks to launch the Soyuz from Kourou as a complement to Ariane 5 and Vega, why not launch the European astronauts from there?
A = Maybe in the future.

Q = What are the particular aspects of the Marco Polo mission?
A = The health aspects, the first Italian astronaut to launch from Baikonur, and first commercial initiatives.

Q = In what language do you speak to the Russians?
A = In Russian.

Q = I want to know what you’re feeling….
A = Preparing for my flight.

Q = What is the maximum speed of the Shuttle?
A = The Shuttle’s maximum speed is 27 000 km/hr.

Q = How many European astronaut flights are scheduled on the Soyuz?
A = There is no fixed number. This year there will be 2, last year there was only 1.

Q = Do you believe in the existence of extra-terrestrials?
A = Yes I believe in the existence of other life forms.

Q = How do you regulate your cicardian rhythm while on mission?
A = Naturally. Life on the station is very intense, therefore it is difficult to regulate one’s own rhythms.

Q = Is it possible for an astronaut to follow the developments of projects initiated during his/her mission?
A = Yes it is, especially with the long-term missions.

Q = Do you have a back-up crew?
A = No, no crew has been designated yet.

Q = How is your physical condition and how many exercise sessions do you perform per week?
A = My physical condition is good, and we train 3 to 4 times a week.

Q = Roberto, what do you expect from this mission?
A = To begin my career as an astronaut, with the prospect of going on a longer mission.

Q = When will space agencies adopt the ion propulsion system?
A = When this technology will have passed the study phase.

Q = How old were you when you first decided you wanted to be an astronaut?
A = I decided after becoming a pilot, so I was…. 33 years old.

Q = Who are the persons who followed you more closely during your preparation for your flight?
A = The medical doctors here.

Q = Do EEG instruments function in space?
A = Yes they do.

Q = Are medical doctors monitoring and developing your exercise programs?
A = Yes they are.

Q = In the 10 days you are going to be in outer space, what will you miss the most?
A = The Earth!

Q = Roberto, is there a project for a new “Mir”?
A = Not officially.

Q = Do you think one day we’ll be able to go to Mars?
A = Yes, and soon.

Q = Have you ever thought of going into space when you’ve reached John Glenn’s age?
A = I’m still a bit young to think about these things… maybe ask me the same question in a few years!

Q = What physical characteristics do astronauts need?
A = Very good physical condition. The psychological aspect is also very important for the ISS.

Q = Do Russians and Americans have different requirements to become an astronaut?
A = On the ISS they have common requirements, whereas on the Soyuz they are different.

Q = What will be the role of Mark Shuttleworth?
A = He will be doing his own scientific experiment on the ISS.

Q = Would you come for a conference at our university when you get back?
A = If invited, of course.

Q = How old are you and where are you from?
A = I am 37 years old and I am from Viterbo, Italy.

Q = Don’t you think that space sciences are not producing enough improvement for us on Earth?
A = I think they are, and hope they will continue to do so in the future.

Q =What is your opinion on the lifeboat concept?
A = The lifeboat is very important for the ISS.

Q = Will you spacewalk?
A = Not during this mission.

Q = Which vehicles have you piloted?
A = All the Italian ones, and most American ones.

Q = Do you feel a bit like Einstein?
A = I feel like a scientist, yes!

Q = Can you bring a camera to the ISS?
A = Yes, and I will!

Q = Have you ever piloted an F104?
A = Yes!

Q = Is it true that all military pilots have vein problems from the waist down?
A = Not that I know of!

Q = To which astronaut would you compare yourself?
A = Maurizio Cheli.

Q = Will you bring a book to read with you on your mission?
A = There won’t be time for reading!

Q = Roberto, are astronauts considered civilians or military?
A = Astronauts are considered either or.

Q = Roberto, would you like to return to the ISS when it is completed?
A = I would love to.

Q = What is waiting for you after this mission?
A = A rehabilitation period, and then I will go to Patrica to fly.

Q = Roberto, what does it mean to you to be an astronaut?
A = It means being ready to face all kinds of situations.

Q = What is written on your ID card next to “Occupation”?
A = Official pilot.

Q = Have you ever taken part in shooting simulations at Decimomannu, with an American pilot on a superior vehicle?
A = I’ve hit and been hit during the simulations!

Q = Is being an astronaut very different from being a pilot?
A = No, it’s not very different.

Q = I like the Space for Health aspect of your mission. Where did this idea come from?
A = I think it is a very important aspect of my mission. The idea came from Dr. Filippo Ongaro.

Q = Roberto, would you encourage your children to become astronauts?
A = Yes, definitely.

Q = Roberto, is flying a Soyuz the same as flying an aircraft?
A = There are a lot of similarities.

Q = Will you write a book after your mission?
A = I don’t think I will have the time to write a book…

Q = Can you become an astronaut without having specific technical preparation in aircrafts?
A = Yes.

Q = Is your wife in Russia with you?
A = Not at the moment, but she will be joining me soon.

Q = Do you have a party for the 41st anniversary of Gagarin’s flight tomorrow?
A = Tomorrow is a National Holiday here at Star City.

Q = I am a radio amateur. Will it be possible to hear you while you are in space?
A = We are trying to organize connections with Italian schools at the moment.

Q = Hi, what do you eat in space?
A = Dried and canned foods.

Q = How old were you when you first started flying?
A = I was 21.

Q = Is medical responsibility under ESA or the Russians?
A = Medical responsibility is under the Russians.

Q = Are you happy with your team?
A = Yes I am.

Q = Was the astronaut selection difficult?
A = Yes it was. I did it in 1998.

Q = Do you think this trip will change you?
A = It’s possible, we’ll see…

Q = What’s happening in these few days before the launch?
A = We’re going to Baikonur for the last preparation tests before launch.

Q = Will you try to take photos of Italy and of other neighboring countries from space?
A = Yes, I will try to take as many pictures as possible!

Q = Roberto, what is the scariest aspect of the mission?
A = The moment I’m looking forward to the most is lift-off…

Q = Roberto, can I write to you during and after the launch?
A = You can write to contactesa@esa.int, where I will be able to see my mail.

Q = Are the Russians treating you well?
A = Yes, very much so!

Q = Roberto, is it true that just before the docking to the ISS, you will be in the orbital module of the Soyuz using the handheld laser range-finder?
A = Only in case of an emergency.

Q = Will you be bringing sweets with you?
A = Only chocolates.

Q = How long will it take you to get to the ISS?
A = It will take 8 minutes and 50 seconds to leave the Earth’s atmosphere, and then it will take 2 days to reach the ISS.

Q = On your passport photo, are you dressed as an astronaut?
A = I’m dressed as an official pilot.

Q = Will you have internet access in the Soyuz?
A = No, but I’ll have access to it on the ISS.

Last update: 12 April 2002

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