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.
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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:
ESA – European Astronaut Centre
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.