A graduate in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, he was selected in 1998 by the Italian Space Agency. His first mission, also by the ASI, STS-120 called Esperia, began in October 2007 with the aim of transporting and placing the Italian-made Node-2 on the ISS. He subsequently became the first Italian astronaut to participate in a long-duration mission. The mission, of the European Space Agency, is called MAGISSTRA and takes off on board the Soyuz TMA-20 in December 2010. He returned to space in 2017 for an ASI long-duration mission, called VITA, again on board the Soyuz MS-09, and with his 313 days, 02 hours and 36 minutes in space he is, at the moment, the longest-lived astronaut in space in Europe.