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‘Italian Space Food’: the project that takes pasta into space

La conferenza stampa

(Washington, Dec. 14, 2023) – A press conference was held today at the Italian Embassy in Washington to present the Italian Space Food Project, which is bringing Italian cuisine into space with the upcoming Axiom 3 mission bound for the International Space Station, scheduled for launch on Jan. 10, 2024. The crew, which includes Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, will in fact enjoy Italian food both during the 14-day pre-departure quarantine, with menus prepared for the occasion by Rana, and in orbit, thanks to products created ad hoc by Barilla. The project is part of the candidacy of Italian cuisine for UNESCO’s intangible heritage, presented by the Italian government at the end of March.

The press conference began with a message sent by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to launch the Italian Space Food Project.

This was followed by a press conference to present the project, in which Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty, and Forests Francesco Lollobrigida, NASA Chief Technologist A.C. Charania, Air Force Air Squadron General Antonio Conserva, Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini, Barilla Group Vice President Paolo Barilla, Rana Group Innovation Manager Giovanni Rana Jr., and ITA (Italian Trade Agency) President Matteo Zoppas participated.

Minister of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty, and Forests, Francesco Lollobrigida, stressed that, “This mission aims to further promote the candidacy of Italian cuisine as UNESCO World Heritage. Our food will arrive in space. This is a stage we started by launching the candidacy on the most beautiful ship in the world, the Amerigo Vespucci, and all over the world we shall tell through our cuisine what Italy has to offer.” The minister then emphasized how it is necessary to “increasingly strengthen our collaboration for the protection of a democratic model, and events like today’s go in this direction.”

The Italian Ambassador to the U.S., Mariangela Zappia, explained how “the Space Food project is part of a long-standing and very broad collaboration between Italy and the U.S. in the space sector, and that Italy is making its fundamental contribution in this area with creativity and innovation.”

“We have a number of activities that we are going to do to improve our ability to monitor space objects in orbit. We are very happy that there is a synergy with Sistema Italia where precisely among other institutions we have Minister Lollobrigida here but also research centers and industries,” said Air Force Air Squadron General Antonio Conserva commenting on the project. “We shall have the opportunity to do a series of experiments and have one of our astronauts on board the mission. This will ensure that these experiments can yield maximum opportunities for future developments because the Air Force and Defense look at space as an opportunity.”

On the sidelines of his speech, General Conserva officially presented the mission patch, handing it over to Colonel Walter Villadei, who will pilot a Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

“One of the special features of this mission is that we have brought experiments that come from the Air Force, the Italian Space Agency, and industry. We are really looking at a System operation that demonstrates the opportunities that this Commercial Space Flight can offer the country,” stressed Colonel Walter Villadei. “This is one of the first missions, perhaps the first mission ever, that Italy is doing in the new space economy, bringing together different institutions. There is the Air Force, the Ministry of Defense, but there is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty, Forests, there is the Ministry of Made in Italy, the Presidency of the Council, with the message we received from the Prime Minister, there is the Italian Space Agency and Italian industry.”

“I think Italy is one of the best countries where we can generate extraordinary and credible innovation because so many aspects of food will be taken into account. For us it is very interesting because we could probe aspects about pasta related to taste to perception, to smell because we don’t have that experience. From every experience comes a further curiosity so I am excited about this project and I am overjoyed since I was approached to sit down with these distinguished gentlemen who have extraordinary experience and technologies to probe a terrain that is unknown to us,” added Barilla Group Vice President Paolo Barilla.

“We are thrilled to have taken part in the Italian Food in Space project, which allows us to continue our mission of proudly spreading Italian gastronomic excellence and experience around the world and beyond,” commented Giovanni Rana Jr., Innovation Manager of the Rana Group. “This goal, together with our natural drive for innovation, has always been in our DNA, which, in over 60 years of history, has led us to be a leader in the fresh food market, with a global presence in almost 70 countries. Italian cuisine,” continues Giovanni Rana Jr, “represents the history and identity of our country, and we believe that in order to enhance and promote it even more effectively, virtuous collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential. This is why we have decided to stand alongside Italian institutions in this project, supporting this historic achievement in which Italy plays a key role.”

“This is a great opportunity, Italy is there in these projects and is present with the government, we want to grow our businesses and increase exports. There are many big entrepreneurs but also many and small medium-sized companies that can fit inside the supply chain and for us it is central to maximize your needs. So as a country system and as a business system we stand with you,” Matteo Zoppas (ICE) said. “For the future there is reasoning about technologies that at the moment do not yet exist, and if we think about life in space or on another planet we must also think about the needs we shall have once there. Then great opportunities open up, the Italian aerospace sector has about 7 bn euros of exports and the new space economy is estimated to grow from about $450 bn to $600 bn in the next five years, to $1 trillion in a few more years. If we add to this all the research and development that will be done then it will open up great room for exports.”

Minister Lollobrigida, in closing, finally emphasized the role of the government, which must have a vision and reinforce the Sistema Italia in a global framework of synergistic alliances with those who have common values on what the future must be, made up of environmental sustainability, food security, which, however, cannot stop at the word food for all but must be flanked by good food for all. “Italy is taking up the challenge of the future. It is doing so with a vision, choosing not to look at contingency but at perspective, investing today in research and innovation, to harvest tomorrow. Maybe it will not be our generations, as Colonel Villadei said we don’t know how much an experiment will pay off today, it will be our children, our grandchildren, who will benefit from what we do today, but someone has to do it, and we intend to do it well because Italy is accustomed to investing today to harvest tomorrow. We will have the opportunity to have space pasta as Ambassador Zappia says and, of course, also the logo of the candidacy of Italian cuisine as UNESCO World Heritage. I am proud today that the government led by Giorgia Meloni, by a woman, has been able to bring people together and I thank them all,” the minister concluded.

At the end of the conference, Fabrizio Colonna, Receiver of the Common Treasure of the Sovereign Order of Malta, presented Colonel Villadei with the OM flag as a symbol of peace to be spread in space.