SPACE CHRONICLES | Astronauts 'emotional' as launch of space station mission approaches

 Comments
SPACE CHRONICLES | Astronauts 'emotional' as launch of space station mission approaches
Text size Aa Aa

This is the second in a series of reports sent to Euronews by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano about his mission to the International Space Station.

The Italian is partnering with Euronews to share his adventures in orbit throughout his six-month Beyond mission, which is due to launch on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landings on July 20.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (right) with NASA astronaut Drew Morgan

Luca and the crew are at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan. It's the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. At the moment they are in quarantine in the lead up to the launch.

This time it's different

He says the operations they have been going through the past few days have felt different from their usual preparations.

"When we went into the spacecraft to check it out, it was OUR spacecraft, built for us," explained Luca. "That was pretty emotional for me."

One of Luca's crewmates, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, has been at Baikonur twice before, as backup crew, but this is his first time in the lead team, and he too says this feels different.

"Instead of returning to Houston, or to the European Space Agency for additional training, we know at the end of this there's a spaceflight waiting for us," said Morgan. "There's a rocket that's getting ready, and we're going to launch together in just less than two weeks. And we're going to live together for more than six months. So that's a lot different than just coming here and being backups."

Luca and the crew rehearsing for the mission launch

It's crucial that Luca and the crew as familiar as possible with the spacecraft and the equipment they will be using on the mission. Rehearsals are everything.

"Even though it certainly doesn't look like one of the spacecraft that you see in sci-fi movies, it has sort of a spartan way of being beautiful," explained Luca. "It's the beauty of technology and safety. I've always thought that."

And Drew Morgan is also impressed with the craft.

"The Soyuz is an amazing piece of equipment," said Morgan. "It's based on technology that has been flying in the Russian space agency for more than 50 years, it's extremely reliable, very robust, and just a really beautiful piece of engineering.

A high-flying career

Married with two daughters, Parmitano will become the first Italian and only the third European to command the International Space Station in October this year.

Always adventurous, his professional experience is impressive. The Lieutenant Colonel in the Italian Air Force has clocked up more than 2,000 hours of flying time spanning 40 types of aircraft.

On his first mission to the International Space Station, he spent 166 days in orbit and personally conducted over 20 experiments. Luca has also taken part in two spacewalks.

Now, the astronaut is taking his first steps into broadcasting, and Euronews looks forward to bringing you Luca's regular reports on this, his most exciting mission so far.

Euronews' Space Chronicles are produced in cooperation with ESA, the European Space Agency