Astronaut On Board ISS Gets Word of Mother’s Death


ISS astronaut Paolo Nespoli from Italy received some sad news while in orbit on the International Space Station: his mother, Maria Motta, has died following an illness. She was 78. This is the second time an ISS astronaut has lost a mother during a long duration mission. U.S. astronaut Daniel Tani’s mother was killed in an accident during the midst of Tani’s ISS expedition in 2007. Nespoli is not scheduled to return to Earth for another three weeks.

Nespoli knew his mother was ill. According to the Associated Press, Nespoli’s family members who live near Milan, Italy have been able to stay in touch with Nespoli with a video system set up in his mother’s home by the European Space Agency. A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, and officials at the European Space Agency said that in such an instance it might be possible to set up a satellite hookup so the absent astronaut could participate in the services.

Just before Nespoli launched on his first mission to space in 2007, his father passed away.

UPDATE: At 15:05 CEST on Wednesday, May 4, the ISS will fly over @Astro_Paolo’s hometown and the crew will observe 1 minute silence. ESA is asking anyone who wishes to participate on their own to please do so.

Anyone interested in expressing their condolences to Paolo can send cards to:

Paolo Nespoli
ESA – European Astronaut Centre
Linder Höhe
D-51147 Cologne

or on Twitter:

The STS-134 shuttle will bring Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori to the space station, and Italians were anticipating having two of their countrymen aboard the ISS at once, and plans were in place for Pope Benedict to call the two astronauts while they were in orbit. The technical problems with shuttle Endeavour has caused a delay in the launch, however, with NASA officials saying the shuttle won’t be able to launch any earlier than May 10. Italian officials are hopeful the shuttle won’t be delayed further so that the meetup in space will still be possible.

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli works with an experiment on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

8 Replies to “Astronaut On Board ISS Gets Word of Mother’s Death”

  1. Sorry to hear this. My condolences to him and his family…

    In this sense, a tour of duty of any kind in space, is no different than any faraway job on Earth.

  2. That’s very sad. I hope he is OK. Thoughts and prayers to him and his family.

  3. My condolences to him and his family. But at the risk of sounding insensitive ( tho i didnt know his mother ), does one have to be careful not to cry in the ISS due to droplets of tears floating around? Does microgravity have any affect on the human ability to cry?

    Just curious…

    1. Without some active attempt to fling them away, tears (or any other water on the skin) would tend to just stay there, building up in the eyes, until closed lids push them out onto the face, where they’d also stay until wiped or evaporated away….

      Unless it’s some oily or otherwise hydrophobic surface, water droplets will pretty much tend to stay where they are, much as they do on Earth when they’re too light and small to roll down.

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