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Science & Exploration

Beyond mission: Luca Parmitano

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / International Space Station

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is no stranger to the International Space Station. During his first mission, Volare, in 2013 he spent 166 days in orbit. He will return to the Space Station on 20 July 2019 for his second mission – Beyond.

Saturday 20 July also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing – the first time humans set foot on the Moon and a major milestone for humankind. Throughout his mission Luca will work on a number of experiments and technology demonstrations that will aid our next steps into space.

Luca will be launched to the International Space Station in a Soyuz MS-13 (59S) spacecraft. He will share this journey with US astronaut Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov and the trio will join US astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin onboard as part of Expedition 60.

During the second part of his mission, Expedition 61, Luca will take up the role of International Space Station Commander, becoming the first ever Italian to do so.

It is the third time a European astronaut has been appointed to this leading position – following ESA astronauts Frank de Winne in 2009 and Alexander Gerst during his Horizons mission in 2018.

Introducing Luca

Luca was born in Paternò, Italy, on 27 September 1976, but considers Catania to be his hometown. He is married, with two daughters, and has a passion for fitness – counting weight training, swimming, cycling and running among his many hobbies.

With a bachelor’s degree in political science and a background as a test pilot, Luca is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Italian Air Force. He is qualified on more than 20 types of military aeroplanes and helicopters, and has flown over 40 types of aircraft.

Luca was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009 and was the first of the 2009 astronaut class to fly to the International Space Station.

During his Volare mission, he carried out more than 40 science experiments in microgravity, many of which are still in operation on the Space Station today. He also showed nerves of steel when faced with a life-threatening situation during his second spacewalk. As water began to accumulate inside his helmet, he was forced to return to the airlock as quickly as possible, but remained calm throughout.

Upon returning from Volare, Luca continued his training and is a certified ‘CapCom’ – a communicator for astronauts in orbit. In this role, he guided fellow ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet through his first spacewalk via radio on 13 January 2017.

What's in a name?

The name of Luca’s mission, Beyond, signifies the exploration of our Universe, as we look far beyond our planet to broaden our knowledge.

In selecting Beyond, Luca was inspired by his fellow ESA astronauts. From the nearness to Earth of Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima mission to the broadening scope of Alexander Gerst’s Horizons mission, Luca saw a path that will push humankind even farther, for the benefit of all.  

“What we do in orbit is not just for the astronauts or for the International Space Station programme, it is for everybody,” Luca explains. “It is for Earth, it is for humankind, and it is the only path for us to learn what we need in terms of science and technology in order to go beyond.”

The research Luca will be running on the Space Station will contribute to keeping humans safe during longer exploration missions. Also on the agenda for Luca are demonstrations that will develop the technological and operational knowledge that will allow humans, together with robots, to explore the Moon and Mars.

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