In the ‘Marco Polo’ mission, ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori (IT) became the first Italian to fly on a Russian Soyuz vehicle from Baikonur in April 2002. He stayed on the International Space Station for 8 days during his 10-day Soyuz TM-34 flight. With him were Yuri Gidzenko and Spaceflight Participant Mark Shuttleworth.
Vittori's flight was called 'Marco Polo' in recognition of the 13th century Italian explorer and the extensive participation of the Italian space agency (ASI). ASI sponsored this flight and the related experimental programme, under the terms of an agreement between ASI and ESA, and the Russian space agency (Rosaviakosmos) and the Russian company RSC Energia.