Orbiting astronauts chat with Italy's president

May 23, 2011 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
This image provided by NASA shows the intersecting thin line of Earth's atmosphere with the International Space Station's solar array wings photographed Thursday May 20, 2011 by an STS-134 crew member while space shuttle Endeavour remains docked with the station. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) -- The astronauts circling Earth got another VIP call from Rome on Monday.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano phoned the shuttle-station complex, two days after called.

Napolitano spoke with the two Italian astronauts, Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori. The spacemen held up an Italian flag that will return to Earth with Nespoli in just hours, and flapped it between them.

"It's a little hard to make the flag fly in the absence of gravity," Nespoli explained.

Vittori received the flag from the president to mark the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification, and flew it up on Endeavour, which is making NASA's next-to-last space flight.

"We're the country of poets, travelers and discoverers, and we must continue to do these things, and these are the things that make us grow." Nespoli said in Italian.

The president asked Nespoli - who's ending a five-month stay at the - whether he could see the gondalas and Grand Canal of Venice. "Or is that a little too much to ask?" he wondered.

Nespoli said by using a zoom lens, he could see ferries, but no gondalas. He spoke of the breathtaking views of Earth seen from the space station's Italian-made cupola, or glassed-in lookout: the Egyptian pyramids, Great Wall of China, Venice, .

"But also from another side it looks fragile," Nespoli said, describing the thin layer of atmosphere.

Nespoli, along with an American and a Russian, will head back to Earth on Monday afternoon aboard a . That will leave three space station residents. After the Soyuz undocks, it will hover nearby so Nespoli can snap unprecedented photos of a shuttle parked at the space station. A Soyuz has never headed for home while a shuttle is present.

The Soyuz will land about five hours later in Kazakhstan.

Flight director Derek Hassmann said the pictures of the linked shuttle and station will be made available as soon as possible following touchdown.

Endeavour and its six , Vittori included, will remain at the space station for another week. The shuttle landing is scheduled for June 1.

Explore further: Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pope to call space station in papal first

Apr 22, 2011

(AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI will be in satellite contact with two Italian astronauts aboard the International Space Station in what would be the first papal call to space.

Image: Lightning over Brazil

May 16, 2011

The European Space Agency's Paolo Nespoli took this image of lightning over Brazil as seen from the International Space Station in January 2011.

NASA assigns crew for shuttle mission

Jun 19, 2006

NASA has assigned crew members to the space shuttle flight that will launch an Italian-built U.S. module for the International Space Station.

Soyuz crew ready to blast off into space

Dec 15, 2010

(AP) -- Three astronauts put aside any last-minute jitters about their Soyuz spacecraft amid final preparations for Thursday's launch to the International Space Station.

Recommended for you

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

13 hours ago

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

16 hours ago

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

First-of-its-kind NASA space-weather project

Apr 23, 2014

A NASA scientist is launching a one-to-two-year pilot project this summer that takes advantage of U.S. high-voltage power transmission lines to measure a phenomenon that has caused widespread power outages ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth ...

Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

(Phys.org) —Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours ...

Kazakh satellite to be launched into orbit

Kazakhstan's first-ever Earth observation satellite is to be fired into orbit next week from the European spaceport in Kourou in French Guiana, launch company Arianespace said.

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...