Fifty years of bilateral agreements with NASA: it was 1962 when Italy signed the first agreement with NASA to launch the first Italian satellite from the base of Wallops Island (Virginia), followed by the first launch of an Italian satellite from the Italian launch base of Malindi (Kenya). The first joint mission of NASA-ASI, LAGEOS, dates back to 1992, it was dedicated to the study of the Earth’s geodesy and geodynamics. In that same year mission Tethered was launched to study the ionosphere. The Cassini-Huygens interplanetary mission, still in orbit, was launched in 1997 with the aim of observing Saturn and its satellite Titan. In 2011 the Italian Team was awarded the prestigious “Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Trophy” in recognition of that mission’s efforts and achievements.
Many Italian scientific experiments were carried aboard NASA missions: Swift (2004) for the study of X-rays; SHARAD (2005), the radar onboard the mission Mars Exploration that found water on the red planet, DAWN (2007) for the observation of the asteroids Vesta and Ceres; FERMI / GLAST (2008) for the study of gamma rays; JUNO (2011) directed toward Jupiter to orbit the poles; NuStar (2012), dedicated to the study of X-rays.
Under the International Space Station (ISS), ASI and NASA have established a strong and privileged partnership through a Memorandum signed in 1997. Italy has produced almost 50% of the pressurized volume of the space station, the three Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM) in cooperation with NASA and the Cupola and Nodes 2 and 3 in cooperation with ESA. Since 2011 one of the three modules has been permanently attached to the ISS.
The Italian cooperation in the space station provides a return in terms of flight opportunities for Italian astronauts: Franco Malerba (1992), Umberto Guidoni and Maurizio Cheli (1996), Umberto Guidoni (2001), Paolo Nespoli (2007) and Roberto Vittori (2011). Two new Italian astronauts of the European Astronaut Corps, Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti, will follow, respectively, in 2013 and 2014.