19 July 2019

ESA's mission Beyond is about to begin.

Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA), is ready to "lift off"

On the Beyond mission he will spend over six months on board the International Space Station (ISS), carrying out many experiments and maintenance activities.

During his last encounter with the public before his departure for space, in Frascati at the Esa-Esrin centre, Luca Parmitano presented and explained the details of his upcoming Beyond mission: virtual reality, telerobotic driving experiments, monitoring ultraviolet radiation and experiments in human physiology are the activities that will keep Luca busy on his second mission on the ISS.

Italian experiments: from nutrition to UV

They are called NutrIss, Acoustic Diagnostics, Amyloid Aggregation, Lidal, Xenogriss and Mini-Euso, and they are experiments "Made in Italy" by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) that will be conducted in orbit during the astronaut's Beyond mission. They cover fields and disciplines very remote from one another, from human physiology to technological demonstrations and biological experiments. Among the experiments dedicated to the science of life there is also NutrIss, dedicated to understanding how long-term space missions can affect body composition (for example in terms of lean mass and fat mass).

The knowledge acquired thanks to NutrIss will allow the development of ad hoc programmes for astronauts' health while in orbit and once at home, they will also be useful, for example, to avoid problems in immobilised patients.

Record-breaking spacewalks

Up there, however, Parmitano will not only devote himself to scientific experiments. Part of the work, as for all astronauts, will see him engaged in maintenance activities. But extraordinary ones: in fact, the most complex series of extravehicular activities ever carried out is planned for his mission. They will serve to reconfigure the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) experiment, which hunts for antimatter and dark matter.

50 years after the first landing

The departure is scheduled for 18:28 (Italian time) on 20 July, precisely the same day as the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, a circumstance which according to Parmitano is pure coincidence: "It's natural to make a lot of this coincidence, to take it as an omen. I did not witness the first landing first-hand, I felt it very strongly as an event, in the memory of all humanity. To be part of it, celebrating it with the departure for the station, I think it's a gift," but that's not all: "I see it as a wish: surely my dream as an astronaut doesn't end with the second trip to the ISS: I still have many years to devote to space programmes, and why not, to dream of going to the moon and even further, beyond, is normal."

We at Mashfrog, who have made our claim on beyond, wish the astronaut Luca Parmitano good luck. We will follow the mission with interest to find out how it progresses.

(Credit: Esa)