KATHMANDU: An Italian Astronaut has become the second man in the world to both fly in space and climb the world’s highest mountain.
Maurizio Cheli, 59, who has logged over 377 hours in space, successfully climbed Mt Everest this morning, according to Thaneswar Guragai, an official at the Seven Summit Treks. “Cheli and Francois Cazzanelli along with their climbing Sherpas – Ramesh Gurung and Nima Rima Sherpa – scaled the mountain,” Guragai told THT over phone from the Mt Everest base camp.
According to the officials at the Department of Tourism, former European Space Agency Astronaut Cheli has become the second astronaut to reach the top of the world. Earlier, a five-time Space Shuttle Astronaut Scott Parazynski from US had scaled the world highest peak in 2009 becoming the only person to have both flown in space and summited Mt Everest, DoT official Tilak Ram Pandey shared.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Cheli reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992 and completed one year of training in August 1993. “He is qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews while his technical assignments to date include: flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL); remote manipulator system/robotics; crew equipment,” the American space agency shares Cheli’s NASA experience. “Cheli flew on STS-75 in 1996 and has logged over 377 hours in space.”
Cheli, the Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) of Italian Air Force, took part at the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-75 Tethered Satellite mission, in which he was assigned the role of Mission Specialist. In the same year Alenia Aeronautica hired him and he got the assignment of Head Test Pilot for defence vehicles, according to reports.
“In 1996, I was flying over the planet on the Space Shuttle Columbia when I took a picture of the Mt Everest. Since then, I always desired to reach that peak. I always desired to stare at that part of the world from a different perspective compared to that time. Now I can finally do it,” Cheli, who now serves as Director of Operational Development at Alenia Aeronautica, shared before embarking on a trek to Mt Everest region. “Mt Everest has always had a unique appeal for climbers, and not only: everybody, at least once in a lifetime, has dreamt even just for a moment to be able to touch its peak.”
According to ESA, he was selected as a member of the second group of European astronauts in 1992. In 2005 he founded CFM Air, a start-up focused on the design of advanced light aircrafts, and in 2006 he founded DigiSky, a company specialized in the development of on-board electronics for sports aircrafts.