Next summer, Paolo Nespoli, a two-time Poly graduate, will join the select few who have made the astounding voyage into space. 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.
On June 19, 2006, Nespoli was assigned to Space Shuttle Mission STS-120 that is dedicated to the build-up of the International Space Station. One of the main tasks of this mission will be the delivery and installation of the Italian-built Node 2, a major building block that will allow for further expansion of the space station. For his first space flight, Nespoli will serve as mission specialist, joining five NASA astronauts. The mission is currently planned for August 2007.
Astonishingly, Nespoli is not the first Poly alum to fly into space. Charles Camarda, ’74AE, traveled to the International Space Station aboard the shuttle Discovery in the summer of 2005.