Sabato, 20 Ottobre 2018

Parmitano starts mission for first Italian spacewalk


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, May 29 - Luca Parmitano on Wednesday zoomed
up to the International Space Station to boldly go where no
Italian has before him, walking into space.
Parmitano, a 36-year-old Sicilian who is the youngest
person to be given a long-duration ISS assignment, is set to
perform "at least two" spacewalks in July, the Italian Space
Agency (ASI) said at a ceremony in Rome.
"I did so much to get him into the ISS and now he's going
to leave it," quipped ASI chief Enrico Saggese.
Saggese reckoned Parmitano's march into history would give
Italy a much-needed boost.
"At times of crisis like this, such successes in space
should supply a bit of confidence and a spur to do better, to go
forward," he told a joint press conference with Defence Minister
Mario Mauro and Education and Research Minister Maria Chiara
Carrozza, an internationally renowned bio-robotics and
neurorobotics expert.
Mauro said "this mission will help us to grasp how space
can help to change the way we live".
Carrozza, one of seven women ministers in Enrico Letta's
new 21-strong government team, said it "underscored the
fundamental importance of space research".
The long-time academic high-flier, a star product of Pisa's
prestigious Sant'Anna School, said experiments in microgravity
"are very important for studies on the human factor and the
effects it has on microbiological systems.
"Italy is at the cutting edge in this sector, and there
could be major industrial offshoots. There are massive
implications, of which I'm well aware because I've worked in the
sector, I know it well".
Asked about government funding for Italian firms trying to
exploit space finds in a climate of austerity, she said: "We'll
have to do a few sums, of course, so we can understand how to
move forward".
Parmitano himself was delighted after already setting a new
time for the fastest trip to the ISS, just over six hours, from
Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, the launchpad for Yuri Gagarin
in 1961.
"Ciao Mamma," he beamed on a video link to Rome, sparking
comments in the Twittersphere including "he looks like the
happiest man in the universe" and "Parmitano is out of this
The pioneering astronaut from Paterno' near Catania laughed
when he saw his soon-to-be spacewalk companion, Chris Collins of
the USA.
"Your hair is buzzed off as much as mine, we're really
streamlined," he chuckled before joining his new crewmates in a
well-earned eight-hour sleep.
Saggese said Parmitano might have a chance to get out in
space sooner than expected.
"There's a laser rear-view mirror on the ISS that is a bit
wonky, and may have to be adjusted before the ATV refuelling
module docks in a couple of weeks," the ASI head said.
Parmitano, a major in the Italian air force, trained for a
year in Russia before copiloting a Soyuz TMA spacecraft to the
ISS where he will venture out to work on its external platform
during a six-month stint on the station.
His mission will involve numerous scientific experiments
and will also feature good Italian food.
Italian chefs have prepared and carefully dehydrated
everything from lasagna to tiramisu', eggplant parmigiana, pesto
risotto and mushroom risotto which Parmitano will share with
others on board the ISS.
Sealed in aluminium bags, the Italian food reached the
space station before Parmitano.
"I'm really looking forward to my first weightless meal,"
Parmitano said before catching his pre-mission shuteye.
The mission couldn't have a more upbeat Italian name:
'Volare' ('Flying'), after the world-famous 1958 song by
Domenico Modugno.

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