.- Pope Benedict XVI’s planned satellite address to the crew of the International Space Station is a reminder of the humanity of astronauts and of the God-given curiosity that drives mankind to explore, Vatican astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said.
“The astronauts are not just robots collecting data; they are people, people like us. And we human beings are motivated to study the universe, and to live and explore in new and exciting places, precisely because of our very human desire to know about and enjoy this creation,” Br. Consolmagno told CNA on May 20.
The Pope’s address reminds us of “the wonderful human side” of exploring astronomy and space, he added.
Pope Benedict will address the space station at 7:11 a.m. Eastern Time on May 21. He will particularly address the two Italian astronauts, Paolo Nespoli and Roberto Vittori. Vittori arrived at the station on the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour, which launched its final mission on May 16.
The event will be streamed live on the internet at the Vatican Radio-CTV website.
Br. Consolmagno said the broadcast had precedent in Pope Paul VI’s direct television linkup to the Apollo 11 astronauts who landed on the moon in 1969.
Though the Vatican astronomer was unsure whether the message was delivered directly to the astronauts, the Pope’s speech read:
“Honor, greetings, and blessings to you, conquerors of the Moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams! Bring to her, with your living presence, the voice of the Spirit, a hymn to God our Creator and our Father.
“We are close to you, with our good wishes and all our prayers. Together with the whole Catholic Church, Pope Paul the Sixth greets you.”
The Jesuit astronomer noted Pope Benedict has previously discussed his predecessor, Sylvester II, an astronomer and notable mathematician of the tenth century. Sylvester introduced much Arabic knowledge into the Christian world, including Arabic numerals, the abacus and the armillary sphere.
Br. Consolmagno explained that the desire to know and explore is at its base “a hunger for God.”
“Curiosity is a gift of God, and the ability to satisfy that curiosity with our ability to do science is a particularly human gift,” he said. “St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that from the beginning of time, God reveals Himself to us in the things he has created.
“Even a scientist who might think of himself as an atheist, is nonetheless driven by this desire, and is hungry to know the truth. They too worship Truth. Studying the universe, finding that Truth, is an act of worship.”
The shuttle Endeavor’s final mission will last 16 days. The shuttle brought an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and a pallet loaded with spare parts to the International Space Station. NASA says the spectrometer is “a cutting-edge physics experiment designed to look for anti-matter in the cosmos and perhaps unlock the mystery of what makes up most of the mass in the universe.”
Endeavour’s mission commander, Mark Kelley, is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely wounded in an Arizona shooting in January.