Back to Index
Science & Exploration

N° 7–1999: ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni to be first European on the International Space Station

9 February 1999

ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni will become the first European to visit the International Space Station, announced ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà, together with NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin and Italian space agency (ASI) President Sergio De Julio, today in Rome.

Guidoni, an astrophysicist of Italian nationality, will fly on an upcoming Space Shuttle mission that will deliver up to 10 tons of equipment to the Space Station, now being assembled in orbit. His flight, named STS-102, is currently scheduled for April 2000.

For the first time, the Shuttle will transport the material in a specially-designed Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM) mounted in its cargo bay. That module, named Leonardo, is the first of three such carriers scheduled for launch to the Space Station. They are being built by ASI under an ASI-NASA agreement that includes a flight opportunity for an Italian astronaut. Both the MPLMs and Europe's Columbus laboratory, which will be added to the Space Station in 2003, have been derived from the European-designed laboratory, the Spacelab, which flew on 22 Shuttle flights over 15 years, from 1983 to 1998.

STS-102's cargo - laboratory racks filled with equipment, experiments and supplies - will be used to outfit the U.S. laboratory module, which will have been attached to the Space Station one month earlier.

When the Shuttle has docked to the International Space Station, the crew will use the Shuttle's robotic arm to lift Leonardo from the cargo bay and attach it to another of the Space Station's ports. The astronauts will then unload its contents. Leonardo will be placed back in the Shuttle's cargo bay and returned to Earth.

Umberto Guidoni will be making his second spaceflight. His first one was as a payload specialist on the Shuttle's 16-day Tethered Satellite System (STS-75/TSS-1R) mission in February-March 1996. Originally recruited by ASI as an astronaut in 1989, he joined ESA's single European astronaut corps in August 1998. He is currently based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he is working in the Robotics Branch on graphical user interface displays for the Space Station's remote manipulator system, a new-generation robotic arm being built by Canada.

For additional information, see the following web pages:
Umberto Guidoni:
ESA astronauts: International Space Station:
Multipurpose Logistics Module (MPLM):

For requests for interviews, please contact:
Franco Bonacina or Clare Mattok ESA Public Relations Tel: (33) 1 53 69 71 55 Fax: (33) 1 53 69 76 90