Of course Paolo had to call in to the unofficial cultural centre of Barga – Da Aristos, to sample the atmosphere of a bygone age before once again continuing his journey.
Then 5 months ago he blasted off to join the International Space Station circling the globe.
Paolo orbited Earth 2224 times, flew through 35 000 sunrises and sunsets, and travelled 94 million kilometres.
This was Paolo’s third mission and third visit to the Space Station, bringing his total time in space to 313 days, the second most for an ESA astronaut, after Thomas Reiter.
This morning he landed back on Earth after 139 days in space.
Paolo and crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos touched down on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 08:37 GMT.
The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft endured the stresses of descent and landing as planned: its heatshield reached 1600°C during reentry into the atmosphere as the astronauts experienced up to four times their own body weight.
At 10 km altitude parachutes deployed before retrorockets provided the final braking metres before touchdown.
“The so-called soft landing feels like a head-on collision between a truck and a small car – and you are in the small car,” recalls Paolo from his 2011 landing.
During his five-month mission, Paolo completed more than 60 experiments during his Vita mission, which stands for Vitality, Innovation, Technology and Ability.
His body was itself an arena for research: his eyes, headaches, sleeping patterns and eating habits were monitored to learn more about how humans adapt to life in space.
Temperature recordings, muscle exercises and plenty of blood and saliva samples will add to the picture and prepare humans for missions further from Earth.
Some 400 km above the planet, he instructed a humanoid robot in Germany to repair three damaged solar panels across a simulated Mars terrain, showing how astronauts and robots will work together on future planetary missions.
Life in space could get easier thanks to tablets and smartphones – Paolo tested a hands-free system that displays instructions during complex tasks.
There was a lot of traffic during Vita: Paolo welcomed four visiting vehicles and saw three leaving the Station. He took part in two dockings using the Station’s robotic arm and assisted in four spacewalks.
Paolo will now be busy with briefings and tests. Astronauts undergo a form of rapid ageing in space and need to readapt to living under gravity. Scientists will investigate how his body reacts as a case study. – source esa.it
Paolo on The ISS:
Nespoli was launched on a Russian Soyuz in May 2017 as part of the is part of Expeditions 52 and 53.
The Milan native – and Inter Milan fan – was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering in 1988 and a Master of Science degree in aeronautics and astronautics in 1989 from the Polytechnic University of New York. He was awarded the Laurea in Ingegneria Meccanica by the UniversitÃ degli Studi di Firenze, Italy in 1990.
A qualified professional engineer, pilot and an advanced diver, Nespoli served in the Italian army between 1977 and 1984 – becoming qualified as master parachutist, parachutist instructor and special forces operator.
Nespoli left the army to complete his studies and work as a design engineer in Florence, where he conducted mechanical analysis and provided support for qualification of the flight units of the electron gun assembly, one of the main components of the Italian space agency’s Tethered Satellite System.
He joined ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne as an astronaut training engineer. In 1995, he was part of the EuroMir project at the Agency’s ESTEC establishment in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, where he was responsible for the team that prepared, integrated and supported the payload and crew support computer used on the Russian space station Mir.
The mission was part of a barter agreement between NASA and Italy’s ASI space agency involving ESA astronauts.
It was ASI’s third long-duration flight, following Luca Parmitano’s Volare in 2013 and Samantha Cristoforetti’s Futura in 2015.