Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018

Parmitano makes first Italian space walk


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, July 9 - Luca Parmitano strode into Italian
space history Tuesday when he became the first astronaut from
Galileo's homeland to walk in space.
The 36-year-old Sicilian, the youngest person to be given a
long-duration assignment on the International Space Station
(ISS), was keenly watched on a live video link from the Italian
Space Agency (ASI) near Rome as he took the first of Italy's
steps in a joint programme between the European Space Agency
(ESA), NASA and the Russian space agency.
The tension was palpable at ASI'S Data centre in the hills
outside Frascati as Parmitano carried out the most daring and
difficult part of the walk.
Head-down, Parmitano crawled along the outside of the ISS,
clinging onto a robotic arm operated from the inside by his
American crewmate Karen Nyberg.
"Go, Luca go," said ASI chief Enrioco Saggese into his
"We have realised a dream," Saggese went on, stressing that
Parmitano's achievement was "a real landmark for Italian space
"It took us 21 years to get this far," Saggese remarked,
recalling the first-ever mission by Italy's first astronaut,
Franco Malerba, in 1992.
Saggese smiled as Parmitano teamed up with fellow
spacewalker Chris Cassidy, another US astronaut, to carry out
the walk's main mission.
Working together, the pair began to disassemble one of the
ISS's platforms so that they can mount a new set of thermal
radiators that will enable the ISS to burn off the excess energy
from its array of solar panels.
Several of the Frascati team cheered as Parmitano started
getting down to work with Cassidy on the crucial operation.
Before setting out across the ISS, Parmitano performed
another key task: photographing the Alpha Magnetic
Spectrometer (AMS) anti-matter hunter.
The AMS, a $2-billion, seven-tonne monster designed to
trawl for anti-matter as well as spotting traces of the dark
matter that makes up 25% of the universe, has to be regularly
"Taking a snapshot of the AMS is important to get a precise
idea of this essential instrument's state of health," said
Claudio Sollazzo, director of the European Space Agency's
Columbus mission.
Italy has been breathlessly looking forward to Parmitano's
bold new step since he blasted into space at the end of May.
Upon launching on May 29, Parmitano was delighted after
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 Paternò near Catania laughed
when he got his first look at Collins since their long training
"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.
Parmitano, a major in the Italian air force, trained for a
year in Russia before co-piloting a Soyuz TMA spacecraft to the
ISS where he will carry out various tasks 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 shut-eye.
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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