The launch of the satellite Starlab and the failure of a nation to broaden its horizons

In the Eighties Australian astrophysicists were in a tizzy for what was about to become an incredible enterprise: the launch of the satellite "“Starlab".

A chance for the nationto broaden (literally) its horizons, and through the study of far-awaystar clusters and galaxies, help unveil the early evolution ofthe universe.

The project, to which Federal funds were generouslygranted, boasts a multitude of enthusiastic workers, and not onlyscientists. Among them stand the Italian Gennaro Cozzi, the one that woulddraw in pencil the entire satellite venture, a mission that eventually,and for reasons beyond his control, would turn into a... fiasco

Gennarohas spent his life drawing, even though his actual dream was to become a pilot. 

At theage of 16 he took part in a youth camp run by the Italian Air Force and inthat moment that he flew, for the first time, an airplane: the 2 seaterMacchi MB-308.

Although the cruise was performed outstandingly,Gennaro will never pilot an aircraft again, nor become, as hoped, aprofessional pilot, due to the pair of glasses sitting on his nose. Atthat time, vision problems were enough to curb such carrier and Gennaroresorted to following his father's footsteps:he became a technical illustrator. He started hand-drawing topographicmaps for military purposes, then content for popular encyclopedias. Atalent imprinted in the paternal lineage, "“a genetic inclination" as helikes to state. Gennaro's father, Ministry for the Italian Merchant Navy,was in fact a craft illustrator, as well as today is one of Gennaro'syoungest daughters. 

Born inNapoli in 1936, Gennaro moved from one city to another throughout hischildhood, following his father's career, until settling down in Rome wherehe met his wife Giuseppina. The capital city also granted him anotherpleasant surprise: a job at Alitalia, the Italian national airline. Here,technicians would refer to his detailed drawings to use during staff trainingsessions. In the classroom students would generally fall asleep andGennaro's vivacious images, more similar to ballons, would cheer up newpilots and cabin crew making the topics more comprehensible and the lessonsmore dynamic. 

30years later and with 5 kids to take care of, Gennaro relocated to Australia,land of new opportunities. Not long after his landing he got a job at themilitary airport of "“Hawker Dee Havilland", in Sydney. He may not havemastered English perfectly yet, but he knew how to draw perfectly: throughhis illustrations he would be the one  responsible for training the staff in the newlocation. 

Thenfinally the big moment arrives: in the Eighties and at the aerospace base,everybody is excited for a soon to be project involving  the launchof a special satellite into orbit, and in recounting that  Gennaro unfolds with nostalgia a large piece ofyellowed paper  displaying afraction- one lens - of Starlab. The venture was of great importance as itincluded the participation, of Australia, Canada and the American NASA. 1990was the year intended for Starlab to get into space. 

Everythingwas running smoothly until the twist: the USA abandons the project, afteryears of planning, leaving Australia with no explanation. The sudden lackof funds from one of the main investors forces the nation to dropits ambitions. The launch would never occur, and Gennaro and hiscolleagues were extremely

disappointedand their deeds publicly untold.

Until now.

The StarLab story is a fascinating one. Not allstories have a happy ending"¦ but that doesn't mean they should be ignored.