Welcome to our new web site!

To give our readers a chance to experience all that our new website has to offer, we have made all content freely avaiable, through October 1, 2018.

During this time, print and digital subscribers will not need to log in to view our stories or e-editions.

Italians exuberant on VG’s initial spaceflight


A visit to space turned out better than expected for three Italians who rode the first commercial space mission on Virgin Galactic’s Galactic 01 flight June 29.

“It was much better than expected,” said the Italian Mission Commander Col. Walter Villadei, who is with the Italian air force, during a press conference immediately following the trip. “It was a very beautiful ride – interesting and amazing. You can be told, but in the end it was an unforgettable experience.”

Villadei said, while it was over quickly, they were able to do all the experiments they had to do and also take in the views of earth.

Physician Lt. Col.  Angelo Landolfi, also with the Italian air force, said he was concentrating on the tests he was tasked with but did get to look outside.

“It was beautiful, amazing, fantastic,” he said before words failed him.

The mission objectives for the Italians included 13 human-tended and autonomous experiments in the biomedical field, thermos-fluid dynamics, and the development of innovative and sustainable materials in microgravity conditions. They were to evaluate and measure hypergravity to microgravity transition effects on the human body and they collected data through wearable research payloads and sensors and by autonomous research payloads mounted in the cabin on the vessel’s payload rack system.

But even as they carried experiments in their suits, the three travelers were able to tuck a few precious personal items in as well.

“I brought two pictures of my daughters when they were much smaller, a wedding picture with myself and wife and a few golden [items] for my daughters,” Villadei said. “Most importantly, the prayer of the Marys which is supposed to be the protector.”

Londolfi took a piece from the museum in Allegro, Italy, and will return it to the museum when he goes home.

Also on board was an engineer with Italy’s National Research Council, Pantaleone Carlucci, who carried a photo of his grandmother who passed away two weeks earlier.

“She was my big partner,” he said.

Villadei said the mission means a lot in this year because both the Italian air force and the Italian National Research Council are celebrating 100 years.

“If you look back at space history in Italy, it was possible because of a strong bond with the U.S.,” he said. “But now it’s … a new opportunity to open a new chapter of human exploration – not just about recalling the past but moving into the future.”

Almost 15 years after Spaceport America welcomed Virgin Galactic as its anchor tenant. That dream of commercial space flight and exploration became real that Thursday, June 29.

“Virgin Galactic has shown what perseverance really means in getting to this stage of their business,” said Scott McLaughlin, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in a press release. “In a very direct sense, the citizens of New Mexico have been investors in Virgin Galactic since the beginning and we look forward to the partnership for years to come.”

The next Virgin Galactic commercial space mission, Galactic 02, is planned for August and flights are expected to continue monthly after that.