Ready to Launch: Poly alum set for STS-120 shuttle mission


Paolo Nespoli, a two-time Poly graduate, and fellow crewmembers are in the midst of final preparations for Tuesday’s STS-120 liftoff. Space shuttle Discovery will take the seven-member crew to the International Space Station where they will deliver and install Harmony Node 2, a new module that will allow the addition of European and Japanese space laboratories.

Countdown to Tuesday’s 11:38 a.m. scheduled launch began on Saturday at 2 p.m. and is running smoothly. Discovery is scheduled to return to Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility on November 6.

STS-120 is the 23rd shuttle flight to the International Space Station. It is the first space flight for Nespoli who was assigned to STS-120 as mission specialist in June 2006. Born in Milan, Italy, Nespoli came to Poly after serving eight years in the Italian army. With credits carried over from high school and concentrated summer courses, he earned a bachelor’s (’88) and master’s (’89) degree in aerospace engineering in only four years. Following graduation, Nespoli returned to Italy to work as a design engineer. During this time, he volunteered for the European Space Agency (ESA) as a test subject in a simulated space station. He later joined ESA’s Astronaut Training division, and was dispatched to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where he worked on the preparation of training for the future crews of the International Space Station.

In 1998, Nespoli followed his dream to become an astronaut and underwent seven months of rigorous exams. His hard work paid off when the Italian Space Agency selected him out of 500 candidates to be an astronaut.