On 29 May 2013, Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency [ESA], arrived on the International Space Station [ISS] on a Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. At age 36, he is the youngest person selected for an extended-duration stay on the station as well as the first of the ESA’s new generation of astronauts to be on board the ISS.
L. Parmitano, together with Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, will be part of the ISS Expedition 36/37 crew as flight engineers. L. Parmitano’s own mission is named Volare (‘to fly’ in Italian) to symbolise the search for new frontiers and opportunities for discovery. Volare is ESA’s fifth extended-duration ISS mission and will comprise 166 days in space.
The astronauts docked on the ISS around six hours after lift-off, being only the second flight to arrive in such a short time, eight times faster than the previous two-day procedure.
The astronaut is the fourth Italian citizen to fligh to the ISS. Member of ESA’s 2009 class of astronauts, he has trained for the last three years in order to prepare for his chance to fly in space.
As a flight engineer, L. Parmitano will be closely involved in robotic operations to receive unmanned vehicles. In particular, he is in charge of logistics operations on the new ESA’s cargo ferry ATV called “Albert Einstein”. He is also scheduled to make two spacewalks to perform maintenance duties on the ISS.
During his mission, he will take part in around 20 experiments covering many scientific areas: human physiology, fluid physics, materials science, biology, radiation and solar research, as well as technology demonstrations.
The Volare mission also comprises educational activities addressed to students from all over the world. A Space Robotics Competition, where students are challenged to build a robot for the ISS; Mission X: train like an astronaut, an international challenge to be as fit as an astronaut; and Amateur Radio on the Space Station, where L. Parmitano will talk to Italian children using the ISS radio.
Three other ESA astronauts from the 2009 class are already waiting in line for a mission to the ISS: Alexander Gerst (Expedition 40/41, May 2014), Samantha Cristoforetti (Expedition 42/43, November 2014) and Timothy Peake (Expedition 46/47, November 2015). The two remaining astronauts, Andreas Mogensen and Thomas Pesquet, will be assigned for flights in the timeframe 2015 till 2017.