CAIRO - 10 April 2019: In his first visit to Egypt, astronaut and engineer of the European Space Agency (ESA) Paolo Nespoli will be attending the third scientific seminar hosted by the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Cairo on April 10.
The Italian Ambassador to Egypt said he hoped the Italian astronaut's visit to Egypt would help boost cooperation between the two countries in the space science field. He added that satellites and space technology are linked to activities on earth, especially with regard to sustainability and particularly in light of the overpopulation in Egypt.
For his part, Nespoli said Egypt will make great achievements hosting the African Space Agency's headquarters.
Nespoli, 61, is one of Europe’s oldest astronauts who arrived home in 2017 after a 139-day stay on the International Space Station. This was his third mission to space.
During the mission his body, eyes, sleeping patterns, and eating habits were closely monitored as scientists tried to understand how humans adapt to life in space, according to Euronews website.
A veteran astronaut, Nespoli further completed 60 experiments on board the ISS in ESA's Columbus science lab module.
Egypt Today managed to exclusively interview the veteran astronaut in Cairo's Semiramis Hotel on April 10.
What are the dangers of travelling to space at the age of 50 or 60, and do you recognize yourself as a man with special abilities to be able to do so three times?
Traveling to space is not a normal activity. It is adventurous and surrounded with numerous dangers. There are many instructions and procedures that must be arranged and applied in order to be able to survive in space. As commonly known, in space there is no gravity and the oxygen in the air is not enough for a person to survive. Therefore, with the special equipment and knowledge of certain procedures, travelling and surviving in space becomes possible, and is indeed an extremely exciting experience.
Without the special spaceships, travelling to space is impossible. In space, the equipment used for surviving in that altitude must work around the clock non-stop, otherwise everything can end in less than a few seconds.
Humanity is still in need for further scientific research and advancement of equipment in order to make the experience of travelling to space a much safer procedure. With the right knowledge, commitment and effort, everything becomes possible.
Travelling to space might seem like a miraculous thing to some individuals, but I would like to actually compare it to a child trying to ride a bicycle for the first time. The child will fall and struggle many times at first, but then as determination and commitment kick in, the child will become better and better at riding the bicycle. Only an individual can decide whether any thing in life is worth the risk it comes with, and like i previously mentioned travelling to space is not risk free at all, yet it is a one in a lifetime experience.
What stops did you make in space? Did you manage to land on the moon or visit mars?
The last visits to the moon were during the end of the sixties coming into the early seventies. Since then, no human has visited the moon. Nowadays, humans do not actually travel very far into space anymore, but even though scientists reside in a spaceship/space station that is not very far from Earth, scientists still manage to acquire further knowledge and experiences in that field impossible to achieve while being on the Earth's surface.
Nowadays, the typical distance away from the Earth's surface is 400 km, and a person can actually see the space station with their naked eye from Earth. It will appear in the form of a shining star.
These visits allow scientists to gain more knowledge and undergo further scientific research, and hopefully enable astronauts to travel to mars in the future and maybe even further than that. If humans ever manage to travel to mars, this could be a miraculous success, as mars is extremely far from Earth. This is not something I expect to happen anytime soon as it requires huge amounts of money and more in depth and committed scientific research. However, I could see it happening during the next 15 years or so.
It also bothers me that at this age of time, only scientists and astronauts are able to travel to space. Throughout history, only around 530 individuals were able to go through this enthusiastic experience. I am hoping and also expecting this to change very soon though, as in my opinion, people representing different fields in life should be able to travel to space, each describing what they see in their own way and form. I think people in different fields could describe this experience in a much more detailed form than scientists and engineers who are limited to giving a scientific description.
I personally expect that travelling to space will become a common thing in a 100 years' time. I also expect to see hotels and touristic travels up there very soon, where a person can travel to spend a honeymoon or just to go through this exciting experience.
What did earth look like from your space station?
How the Earth appears from space is one of the main reasons why anybody would like to go through this experience and see that magical view for the very first time. I would describe our planet as a tiny ship floating in endless space. You can see the oceans, rivers, deserts and forests from space very clearly.
Unfortunately, you can also see that humans are absolutely everywhere, pressurizing the planet and depleting its resources. Planet earth is very delicate. Humans throughout history have abused it throughout their numerous activities of destroying forests and unwisely using natural resources. From space, a person can easily view the amount of harm and pollution we as humans caused to this delicate planet.
What can you tell us about the Ozone layer problem?
I see the hole in the ozone layer as a success story actually. As due to the precautions, guidelines and protocols that governments and companies are complying to, the ozone hole decreased in size. The only way to combat any danger is to acknowledge it first. Only then, solutions could be found and applied. People should also be aware of the fact that once a natural resource runs out, recovering it is impossible.
From my experience, I did not see or witness any of such creatures. I assure you that I actually was curious to find aliens and I did look around in search for them, but I did not come across any weird creatures.
How long does it take to travel to space?
Well, when a person travels to space, they are travelling using the force of a rocket, which is a huge and indescribable power. A person must be of good health to be able to handle such overwhelming power. It usually takes 8.5 minutes to reach the outer space, and then the astronaut needs more time until he/she finds the space station in which they will reside. So the total time going up there can take up to 6 hours, while landing back on earth will require almost 4 hours.
What are the most recent space discoveries?
That is difficult to say because there are hundreds if not thousands of scientists and engineers who work in this field, continually discovering new things. Research takes a small step every day; it takes a lot of time and effort. It's like putting puzzle pieces together.
What dangers can come to earth from space?
There is a theory that claims the moon was once part of the Earth and because of a massive meteorite that hit the planet they separated. This theory also points out that because of the explosion the Earth is extremely hot by the equator line. The theory also claims that the dinosaurs that once resided on earth died because of that meteorite. So anything could happen, nothing to prove it though. I personally believe that humans are the real danger to earth. I think the human race should be more attentive and careful.
What is the cost of travelling to the space station?
Well, it is very difficult to name a cost, simply because it is not a business. It is a once in a while step taken mostly by a government or a scientific entity. I would say it would probably cost $200 million to travel to a space station for a scientific mission. I assure that this cost will decrease greatly in the future once this procedure becomes more common. It's like having five cars of a certain brand worldwide. One car will be expensive; however, once the same car becomes abundant, the price will decrease. I believe once space tourism is launched and becomes a common activity, it will probably cost around $100,000 for a person to travel to space for a touristic adventure.
How do you reply to the rumors claiming that the end of the world is very soon?
I do not believe such claims as there is no scientific basis to them or at least not just yet. Periodically and throughout history, these rumors have been common. Everyone is entitled to believe what they please. As an engineer, I personally do not believe any of these claims. We never know if a meteorite comes suddenly from space to hit our planet or anything of that kind. I actually think the end of the world will come soon if the human race does not stop abusing the natural resources and excessively polluting our delicate planet.
Do you want to visit the space again?
I wish I can do so. I would certainly love to but that is not possible; it is not something that is provided at any time. I am grateful I went through this experience in the past. I am very pleased with my experience going to space and I happily lecture enthusiasts, young scientists and mathematicians around the world about my valuable experience up there.
How did Egypt look like from your space station?
Egypt from my space station looked very well defined. It had a reddish color and then you see the Nile in a very beautiful way during the day and night. It seemed like a lotus flower. I could easily locate the red sea which also looked magnificent. It is actually very nice. There was not a lot of clouds covering its skies. While looking at Italy from my space station, I could easily see the thick clouds causing thunders and rains. Egypt is actually a very beautiful and sunny country.
What advice would you like to offer to young scientists and enthusiasts?
I would like to tell them that the future is ours. That means dreams can come true provided there is commitment and determination. You might need the help of others, but it's about you as a person. You have to take charge of your decisions. You have to dream about something impossible. Dreaming of something that already exists is not a dream. Dream big, work hard, have the right determination and exert great effort and only then dreams will come true! Without trying hard, nothing will become possible.
Did you try any of the Egyptian food
I did not have the time to try much of the different foods, but I certainly loved the baba ghanouj and shawerma. I am certainly eager to try the stuffed pigeons in khan el khalili.