, working for the Italian Space Agency
) and the European Astronaut Corps
), since 1998.
Nespoli was born on 6 April, 1957, in Verano Brianza
. He is one of several astronauts within the EAC who has yet to actually
go into orbit. In the meantime he is busy training
, and assisting with the planning of other missions.
At the moment, he is located at the Johnson Space Center, Houston (yes, that’s a NASA center), where he is in the process of obtaining the qualifications necessary to carry out Extra Vehicular Activities (Space walks). He is also involved with support activities at the Kennedy Space Center, related to the Shuttle launches, and the International Space Station (ISS) advanced training program, which sends him across the world to train with other astronauts at the various ISS partner agencies.
Nespoli began his career in the Italian army, which he joined in 1977 as a parachute instructor. By 1980, he had worked his way up to the Italian Special Forces, and two years later was taking part in his first active duties: as part of the Peacekeeping Force in Beirut. He worked there until 1984, when he returned to Italy, and was promoted to officer.
In 1985, he went to New York to continue his academic studies, leaving in 1989 with an MSc in Aeronautics and Astronautics. After this, he returned to Italy once again, to work within the space industry as a design engineer. It was during this period that his connections to all things space-related began to strengthen, since his projects included several design assignments for the Italian Space Agency.
Nespoli’s strengths have always been his engineering skills, especially as far as software engineering is concerned. This might explain why, when he joined the EAC in 1991, his training route was not what one might expect from an astronaut. As well as completing the standard training programs (health, fitness, safety procedures, etc.), Nespoli began helping out with designing the training programs themselves, and assisting the EAC with the management of the various training courses. Before long, he had created the Astronaut Training Database, the software system that is still used for managing the fairly complex task of ensuring that all astronauts are qualified for their respective missions, and that they keep these skills maintained through regular refresher courses.
Once he had established himself as an expert within this particular field, he began work on various projects involving preparation and maintenance of the crew and computers to be used in future missions. This included working on the EUROMIR project in 1995 (unsurprisingly, the project concerned European missions to the Mir space station) and working at Johnson Space Center in 1996 to help astronauts prepare for Shuttle missions to the ISS.
Still based at the Johnson Space Center, Nespoli began his current training in 1998. Although he is still busy preparing and administrating the training of other astronauts, he is approaching full flight qualification himself, and is hoping for his own space flight sometime in the near future. If he is chosen, it will most likely be for one of the fairly regular servicing missions to the ISS.
BSc Aerospace Engineering, 1988, Polytechnic University of New York
MSc Aeronautics and Astronautics 1989, Polytechnic University of New York
Laurea (Honorary qualification) in Mechanical Engineering, 1990, University of Florence
Master parachutist, parachute instructor, jump master, High Altitude Low Opening, Special Forces operator, Advanced scuba diver, private pilot, NitrOx diver
More information: http://www.esa.int/export/esaHS/eurastronauts.html