The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is being watched around the world and now even ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is tuning in from orbit. Thanks to cooperation with World Rugby, ESA has arranged for all Italian games to be uploaded to the Station, so Luca can cheer and show support all the way from space.

It’s not unusual for significant sporting and cultural events to be enjoyed on the Space Station. During his Horizons mission, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst watched football while ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang (who competed in the 1981 World Frisbee Championship) took one of his own frisbees to space to see if he could break the world record for time aloft.

In fact, Luca sent a video message to kick off a rugby match between Italy and Australia during his last mission, Volare, in 2013. The game was played in Turin, Italy, just two days before he returned to Earth.

Providing astronauts with the opportunity to cheer for their favourite team, watch their favourite show or read the latest news while on Station helps with crew morale. It also provides a way to switch off and relax after a busy day of science and operations. The task of sourcing and uploading media for ESA astronauts is taken on by crew support.

Acting lead of ESA’s Astronaut Operations Team, Romain Charles, describes the role of crew support as: “facilitating the daily lives of astronauts so they can focus on their missions”. It involves everything from arranging weekly video calls between an astronaut and their family to coordinating with NASA to send crew care packages to the Station on cargo vehicles and participating in the team that organises an astronaut’s safe return to Europe.

To help inspire the Italian rugby team to achieve their goals on the ground Luca sent down the following message. This was recorded in Italian, but the English translation is as below.

English translation:

Hello everybody this is Luca Parmitano astronaut of the European Space Agency on board the International Space Station with mission Beyond.

I want to say good luck for the next match and for this championship.

Rugby is a fantastic sport and a sport that celebrates friendship and teamwork. 

As you have to work together to reach your ‘goal’ – try – we too on board the International Space Station must work, collaborate with a team of both astronauts and ground staff from all over the world, to reach our objective, our goal, which is space exploration, technology and science.

Italy responds

In response to Luca’s message and support from space, Italian captain Sergio Parisse also recorded a video for Luca in Italian. Here he says he knows this is the first-time rugby games have been shown on the International Space Station and hopes his team can continue to be in a position to send nice pictures as he thanks Luca for his support. 

Italy’s next game is against South Africa at 11:45 CEST (09:45 GMT) Friday 4 October.