“Good morning Mr Nespoli and nice to see you too Commander Melroy [in English in the original],” that was how Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, started the call with the ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and STS-120 Commander Pamela Melroy, on board the International Space Station.
The audio-video bridge, which started at 09:18 CET (08:18 UT) this morning, was an ESA and Italian Space Agency ASI joint event. With the collaboration of the Italian television channel RAI, the inflight call linked the official Presidential residence at Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome with Node 2, Harmony, attached to the International Space Station (ISS).
For around 20 minutes, Nespoli and the Italian President Napolitano had a lively and intense discussion, which also touched on some crucial themes relating to space exploration. On the one hand the President expressed his pride and satisfaction at the Italian contribution to the international challenge of the Station; on the other hand, he stressed the necessity to continue this effort to stimulate the young generation to take an interest and play a leading role in the future.
The main goal of the Esperia Mission on board the STS-120 Shuttle mission, now in its ninth flight day, is the installation of Harmony, the Italian-built pressurized module Node 2. Harmony will allow the permanent connection of the European Columbus laboratory and the Japanese Kibo laboratory.
“The name of this mission, Esperia, underlines very well the Italian role,” stated the Italian President. “The mission bridges Italy with Europe, with the United States, with the whole world. It is very important that this mission is a great success.”
“It’s crucial that our country continues to work in the space sector, to take part in international projects,” Nespoli said. “We must also stimulate younger generations, supporting and keeping our dreams alive.”
“This link with the young generation and the schools is really superb,” replied the Italian President. “I believe that the seeds you are planting will soon blossom. Youngsters need hope, motivation and dreams to have faith in the future.”
President Napolitano concluded the call with an invitation to Nespoli, Commander Melroy and all the crew to pay him a visit at Quirinale. From their side, the two astronauts said goodbye to the President with Melroy performing a somersault, demonstrating the weightless environment of the ISS.