Parmigiano-Reggiano is back in space on mission with Roberto Vittori

15 years of space travel among the stars as an official food for cosmonauts

Reggio Emilia, 20th May 2011 -  Parmigiano-Reggiano goes back into orbit. Not new to the experience of space travel – it made its debut back in 1996 – the “King of Cheeses” has been taken on board the Endeavour (on the space shuttle’s last mission) to the International Space Station (ISS) by the Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Vittori took small portions of Parmigiano-Reggiano packed one-by-one in a modified atmosphere to the six crew members – including the other Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who will return from the mission in a few days: they are the same single-portion pieces sold as snacks in many places and particularly convenient for eating in a special environment such as the shuttle and thus authorised by NASA.

The cheese was sent to Vittori by the Protection Consortium and, in handing it over to him, Sport Master Giorgio Cimurri actually celebrated the tenth anniversary of Parmigiano-Reggiano’s recognition as the cheese for inclusion in the astronauts’ diet. In 2001 the Russian Space Agency officially included Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the diet on board the mission for the construction of the International Space Station (ISS): the Russian cosmonauts T.A. Musabaev and Y.M. Baturin, together with the first space tourist, the American Dennis Tito, used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in single-portion packs.

In January 2005, Parmigiano-Reggiano reached its moment of triumph: it was included in the official diet of all astronauts on mission in orbit in the International Space Station.  

“We are obviously very pleased – underlined the Consortium President, Giuseppe Alai – of supporting Vittori’s mission with our product and also to welcome Nespoli, whose participation in these space missions confirms Italian excellence in such a difficult and selective profession and area, on his return”. “We have never doubted the fact that Parmigiano-Reggiano is an ideal product for astronauts – continued Alai: since it was launched into orbit fifteen years ago with astronauts Maurizio Cheli and Umberto Guidoni (22nd February - 9th March 1996, NASA space mission, Space Shuttle Columbia), we have known not only that it is particularly suitable in astronauts’  diet but also - because it is totally natural and undergoes lengthy maturation - its perfect preservation in extreme conditions is also guaranteed”.
“In this respect – concluded Alaislightly less than one year ago, we welcomed the conclusion of solo voyager Red Stowe’s adventure, when he set foot on land after more than 3 years (exactly 1,152 days) of uninterrupted navigation without stopping for replenishments, to simulate some of the conditions of a hypothetical mission to planet Mars: for that event, 113 kilos of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese were loaded on board the “Anne” sailing from New York”.

FIFTEEN YEARS OF SPACE MISSIONS

It has already been mentioned that being part of the official diet of astronauts in orbit since January 2005 on the International Space Station mission Parmigiano-Reggiano feels at home in space.

Its debut dates back to 1996 with the Italian astronauts Guidoni and Cheli (Shuttle Columbia); in the period April-June 2000 single-portion packs of cheese were carried into space by the Russian cosmonauts Sergey Zalyotin and Aleksandr Kaleri during the Russian space mission on the MIR (orbiting space station).

From the scientific point of view, the 20th October 2000 marked the true celebration of Parmigiano-Reggiano as a food that is particularly suitable for the astronauts’ diet (Valeri Morgun, medical doctor in charge of the “Y. Gagarin” Centre during the conference "Food for Space" held in Salsomaggiore Terme, promoted by Professor Umberto Solimene of the University of Milan) thanks to its excellent digestibility, high calcium content (which is lost in high amounts in the absence of gravity) that is easy to assimilate, has no preservatives and additives, and is pleasant to eat: in particular, this last element is innovative because it introduced organoleptic pleasure as a criterion of choice in designing a diet that until then consisted exclusively of synthetic preparations.

In April and June 2001, Parmigiano-Reggiano returned to space with NASA (once again with Umberto Guidoni) and with the Russian Space Agency (with the first space tourist, the American Dennis Tito) and became an official food for Russian astronauts.

In April-May 2002, for the first time it travelled with Roberto Vittori (replacement of the Soyuz rescue capsule, voyage of the second space tourist, the South-African Mark Shuttleworth), and in April 2005 (“Eneide” space mission) it travelled again with Vittori, the Russian Sergei Krikalev and the American John L. Phillips on the International Space Station.