Pope Calls Space, Takes Small Step for Vatican-Russian Ties - NBC 6 South Florida

Pope Calls Space, Takes Small Step for Vatican-Russian Ties

This is the second papal phone to space made by Pope Francis; in 2011 he rang the space station and peppered its residents with questions about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    NASA Astronaut Jack Fischer captured this timelapse video of the aurora borealis while aboard the International Space Station. The video, taken 250 miles above Earth and at a speed of 17,500 mph, was posted on Fischer's Twitter account July 21. (Published Tuesday, July 25, 2017)

    Pope Francis took a small step toward improved Vatican-Russian relations Thursday when he chatted with Russian cosmonauts and praised their understanding of love during a call with the International Space Station.

    Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli played translator during the roughly 20-minute call that was interrupted once when the line dropped at the orbiting laboratory.

    Like a curious child, Francis peppered Nespoli and the five other crew members with questions both simple — What inspired them to be astronauts? — and philosophical — How do they view mankind's place in the universe?

    The responses he received, in particular from Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy, marked another small step for the Vatican's long tense relations with Orthodox Russia. Francis has made improving those ties a priority of his pontificate, and became the first pope in a millennium to meet with the Russian Orthodox patriarch last year.

    This Is What Happens When You Take a Fidget Spinner to Space

    [NATL] Fidget Spinners in Space

    Astronauts aboard the International Space Station tested a fidget spinner in zero gravity. They had time to play with the popular toy in between three scheduled space walks this month.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 16, 2017)

    Ryazanskiy told Francis that he had been inspired by his grandfather, a Soviet engineer who helped build Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite that marked the beginning of the Space Age.

    "For me it is a great honor to continue what he was doing to fulfill his dreams with a space flight, the future of all humanity," Ryazanskiy told the pope in English.

    Francis, who has long exalted the role of grandparents, marveled at his response. "That's our strength: Never forget roots. It does me good to hear this! Thank you," Francis said.

    Francis also praised Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin: Francis had asked how the crew members understood Dante's verse that love is the force that moves the universe.

    Misurkin told him in Russian, translated by Nespoli, that he had been reading Antoine de St. Exupery's "The Little Prince" while in space and was taken by the young prince's understanding of love.

    "Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else," he told the pope.

    Watch the Moon Eclipse the Sun in Under 3 Minutes

    [NATL] Watch the Moon Eclipse the Sun in Under 3 Minutes

    See a time-lapse of the 2017 solar eclipse in less than three minutes.

    (Published Monday, Aug. 21, 2017)

    Francis lit up at his response, saying "It's clear you have understood the message that St. Exupery so poetically explained, and that you Russians have in your blood, in your humanistic and religious tradition."

    It was the second papal phone call to space: Pope Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011 and asked about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced. Before Benedict, Pope Paul VI sent a radio message to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins after their historic 1969 moonwalk, calling them "conquerors of the Moon."

    Francis, who considered a career as a chemist before becoming a priest, has repeatedly expressed his concern for the environment and care for what he calls "our common home."

    Space station Cmdr. Randy Bresnik told Francis that what he most enjoyed in space was being able to "see God's creation maybe a little bit from his perspective."

    "You see the thinness of the atmosphere, it makes you realize how fragile our existence here is," he added.

    Bresnik, a U.S. Marine who flew combat missions during the Iraq war, told Francis that what struck him most was that from space there are "no borders, there is no conflict, it's just peaceful."

    Astronauts Repair Robotic Arm on Space Station

    [NATL] NASA Astronauts Repair Robotic Arm on International Space Station

    Two NASA astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station to repair a robotic arm. It is the first of three spacewalks planned for October.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017)

    "People cannot come up here and see the indescribable beauty of our Earth and not be touched in their souls," he told the pope.

    Nespoli thanked Francis for his philosophical questions, telling him that most of the crew's days are spent performing highly technical and mechanical tasks.

    "You brought us higher up," he said. "You took us away from the daily mechanics of things and made us think about things that are bigger than us."