The first woman ever to be hired as Director of the European Space Agency; the first woman ever to be in charge of man’s space travel in Europe; the first woman ever to be in charge of man’s space travel at any space agency around the world. This is the portrait of astrophysicist Simona Di Pippo, born in Rome, for twenty-two years at the head of the scientific programmes of the Italian Space Agency and later appointed to lead the most important sector of space exploration at ESA. 350 people report to her at the ESA ESTEC center in Nordwijck, The Netherlands, in Paris as well as at the European astronaut training facility in Cologne, Germany.
Simona is also in charge of the European lunar exploration project, for which a Moon base is currently being designed. In particular, she is in charge of all European astronauts including Italian Paolo Nespoli, who is currently involved in a long mission on the International Space Station, approximately 400 km away from the Earth. The other character in the report Two Italians Among the Stars, Paolo keeps in close contact with Simona Di Pippo, who follows him from the Earth.
Paolo Nespoli has been a member of the European astronaut team for over ten years. In 2007 he took part in ESA’s Esperia Mission as a mission specialist. Now he’s back into space as a flight engineer for the MagISStra Mission, during which he is expected to carry out more than 30 scientific and technological experiments on the International Space Station. Paolo is going to spend six months on the station - the first Italian ever to live for such a long period of time on the cosmic base.