Paris, 10 April 2002
ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori of Italian nationality will shortly lift off from Baikonur on board a Russian Soyuz vehicle for a ten-day mission - codenamed 'Marco Polo' - to the International Space Station. You can chat to him live from Star City tomorrow 11 April, between 17:00 and 19:00 CET at www.esa.int/vittori
To join the chat, just go to www.esa.int/vittori , type your name in the user box and enter the chat room.
A test pilot and Lieutenant Colonel in the Italian Air Force, Roberto Vittori is one of three Italian astronauts in the European Astronaut Corps. On this mission he will be Flight Engineer on the Soyuz vehicle, alongside the Russian Soyuz Commander, Yuri Gidzenko, and Flight Participant Mark Shuttleworth, from South Africa. The crew will spend 8 days on board the International Space Station.
The Marco Polo mission
ASI is the agency sponsoring this flight and the related experimental programme, under the terms of an agreement between ASI and the European Space Agency on the one hand and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos) and the Russian company RSC Energia on the other.
The main objectives of the 'Marco Polo' mission are to exchange the Station's current Soyuz vehicle, which serves as the main emergency rescue craft for the Space Station crew, and to carry out a number of ASI and ESA experiments on board the ISS.