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ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori, from Italy, poses in front of a model of the International Space Station (ISS). A test pilot in the Italian Air Force, Roberto Vittori has logged nearly 2,000 flight hours in over 40 different aircraft. In July 1998, he was selected as an astronaut by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in cooperation with ESA. In August 1998, he joined ESA's European Astronaut Corps at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, and was relocated to NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, and entered the 1998 Astronaut class for participation in the space shuttle mission specialist training programme. He also performed technical duties in the Space Shuttle Operations System Branch. In August 2001 he took up training as onboard engineer at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC) in Star City near Moscow. Roberto Vittori flew the Marco Polo mission from April 25 to May 5, 2002, under an agreement between Russia's Rosaviakosmos, ASI and ESA. Launched onboard Soyuz TM-34 on a Soyuz Taxi flight to deliver a new return vehicle to the ISS permanent crew, he spent one week onboard the orbital outpost, performing experiments, and returned to Earth onboard Soyuz TM-33. In August 2002, Roberto Vittori returned to JSC, where he is supporting the New Generation Space Vehicles Branch.