Mother dies as Italian astronaut son is in orbit

2011-05-03 14:39

Milan – The mother of Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who is in orbit on the International Space Station, has died in her hometown near Milan, officials said today.

Maria Motta died following an illness at her home yesterday evening. She was 78.

Verano Brianza Mayor Renato Casati told the Associated Press that family members have been in touch with Nespoli, who arrived on the space station in December for a six-month stint.

Nespoli, along with an American and a Russian, are scheduled to return to Earth in three more weeks.

“Even if he was prepared for this possibility – he knew about his mother’s health problems – it is painful not to be able to be near her at the last moments,” Casati said.

This is the second time that Nespoli’s space missions have been clouded by the death of a parent. His father, a banker, died in 2007, shortly before Nespoli launched his first space mission.

“Paolo said: ‘We have been waiting so long for this, and my father didn’t make it to see it,“’ Casati recalled.

Casati said Nespoli’s wife and young daughter had travelled back from Houston to be with his mother.

Motta is also survived by three other children.

“She was proud of all her children, not just one,” Casati said.

Family members in the town of Verano Brianza, some 20km north of Milan, have been able to stay in touch with Nespoli with a video system set up in his mother’s home by the European Space Agency, the mayor said.

A funeral service will be held tomorrow.

Officials at the European Space Agency said that in such an instance it might be possible to set up a satellite hookup so the absent astronaut could participate in the services. However, Casati said he did not know if it would be technically feasible in time.

Such family tragedies have befallen astronauts in the past.

US astronaut Daniel Tani’s mother was killed in an accident while he was living on the space station in 2007.

And former space station commander Scott Kelly was on the space station when his sister-in-law, Republican Gabrielle Giffords, was shot on January 8.

Giffords’ husband, Endeavor commander Mark Kelly, is preparing to leave on the next shuttle launch, which has been delayed until early next week. That shuttle will also carry Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori to the space station.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.