Two years later his mission “Volare” on ISS, Air Force Major Luca Parmitano, comes back to origins. The Italian astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) held a conference about the “Space Dimension” at the Aeronautical Academy of Pozzuoli, Naples on 13th May 2015.
The excitement during the following days in aftermath of the announcement that he would have been in Naples as a guest for a private meeting, has been completely rewarded. Indeed, EUROAVIA Napoli “Umberto Nobile” had the great pleasure to be invited by the Aeronautical Academy to this welcome opportunity.
Luca Parmitano attended the Academy from 1995 to 2005 taking part to the SPARVIERO IV course and the reason of his visit to cadets and civil students was the willingness to share with us his magnificent experience in the space. The name of the Italian Space Agency (ISA) mission, “Volare”, meaning “to fly” in Italian, suggests the search for new frontiers and opportunities for discover while the mission logo was chosen because it contains many elements of Major’s mission: the Soyuz spacecraft, the ISS and colours of the Italian flag.
Moreover, the Major has been the first Italian to have an “Extra Vehicular Activity” (EVA) from ISS and this event has fully expressed the best identity of the Air Force and the excellence in the aerospace field of the Academy.
He introduced his speech focusing on three words he regarded essential during his stay on ISS and everyday work: science, technology and exploration. He said that the scientific knowledge is a leitmotif for a space mission and, in general, for all the kind of activities in the aerospace field. However, without any doubt, technological development and improvement pushes and urges on the research. Nowadays, he explained, these two aspects are just not enough if they are not linked together by the desire to overcome our boundaries. From here, the necessity to explore and gain experience in the unique opportunity that life give us. After all, he said that the space is the natural extension of the operative environment of the Air Force in which it operates. All this, he affirmed, made his experience unbelievable and at the same time, he is proud to represent Italy at an international level and the Academy where he studied.
After this brief introduction, he focused on the core of the meeting. Lots of topics and explanations were given by the astronaut about all the aspects of his period far long the Earth: from the launch time to the shuttle rendezvous and from everyday life on ISS to the re-entry.
It was very interesting and nice to listen to many anecdotes and good luck acts. A funny story, for example, was about the astronauts who pee on the half way to their spacecraft. It seems that Jurij Gagarin did it for the first time and from that moment all of them repeat that propitiatory gesture in the way of “We don’t believe but it’s true”.
Beyond these facts, Major Parmitano was extremely clear to explain the research activities on ISS and the unexpected technical problems that sometimes have to face an astronaut. Indeed, his helmet filled up with water during the second planned EVA because of a damage to the overalls, which allows astronauts to have a comfortable blood heat. Of course, the EVA was interrupted as the water rose and clung to his face causing difficulty in breathing and vision.
At the end of the conference the participants satisfied their curiosities and questions and when a student asked to Major “Does a dream of your life come true with the mission ?” he replied, “A dream is something that is impossible to come true. I was chosen by ASI to execute a project not a dream and you, students, have to work hard so that you can be apt and realize our future mission”. Therefore, knuckle down!”
Armed of this lesson, we just have to wait for the story of another astronaut who studied at Aeronautical Academy of Pozzuoli. Her name is Samantha Cristoforetti and we all put faith in meeting her soon.
Daniele Vangone IEM, AS Napoli