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Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori may return to the International Space Station for a second time in March-May 2005
An official spokesman for Roscosmos told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that yesterday, Francisco Storace, the head of the government of the Lazio Region (Italy), met with Roscosmos officials at the Federal Space Agency headquarters. Spokesman for the European Space Agency Christian Feichtinger attended the meeting. "The main theme discussed at the negotiations was Roberto Vittori's flight to the ISS in 2005," a spokesman for Roscosmos said. "The negotiations resulted in the signing of a tripartite Protocol on Mutual Understanding with Regard to the Launch of a Russian Rocket to the ISS in March-May 2005." According to him, the document says Lazio empowers the European Space Agency to sign the preliminary authorization for the initial work to begin on Mr. Vittori's flight to the ISS on a Soyuz in March-May 2005. The spokesman said the preliminary authorization would make it possible to start immediately preparations for the launch of a Soyuz spaceship in March-May 2005, before a contract on the flight to the ISS was concluded. He also said that many space industry enterprises were concentrated in Lazio. The government of the region is a cosponsor of Mr. Vittori's flight to the ISS. On October 5, the Italian delegation visited the Flight Control Center, where Roberto Vittori is currently training. The delegation invited Roscosmos officials to attend a space exhibition in Rome at the end of the year. Mr. Vittori is a lieutenant colonel of the Italian Air Force. He has about 2,000 flight hours on different types of aircraft, including a F-104, a Tornado GR-1, a F-18, an AMX, a M-2000, an O-222 and a P-180. In July 1998, Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency chose him to be an astronaut, and in four months he was included in a group of European astronautswhich was deployed at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. In August 1998, he was transferred to the Lyndon Johnson Space Center in Houston (Texas, US) to train for shuttle flights and as flight operation specialist on the ISS. On August 6, 2001, Mr. Vittori was transferred to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center to train for space flight as a flight engineer on a Soyuz-TM spaceship for the third ISS mission. In April 2002, Mr. Vittori, Russian cosmonaut Yury Gidzenko, and the second space tourist, Mark Shuttleworth, went to the ISS.
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