I saw this article from EWTN and simply had to read it.  After all, the Pope taking time out of his day to address a certain group of people sounds very important.  Apparently, on Saturday, the Pope will speak with the two Italian astronauts aboard the International Space Station about the Endeavour’s last mission.

The Endeavour shuttle launched for the last time only days ago.  Technical and mechanical issues delayed the launch a few times, and even now that the astronauts are in space, they are still encountering minor glitches.

I’ll be getting ready for work (read:  asleep) while the Pope’s address will be streamed on the Vatican Radio-CTV site or broadcast live on some television stations at 1:11 PM Rome time (6:11 AM Central time).  However, a teeny-tiny part of me is extremely curious to know what the Pope will talk to a couple of astronauts about.  After all, the Pope probably won’t have a video conference with me on my last day of work, now will he?  And last I checked, Benedict is not one of the world’s leading space experts.

We are all fascinated by space and the vast universe God created, and I suppose the Pope is no exception here.  For centuries, the Church and those interested in space have butted heads.  People have always used the sun and moon to mark the passage of time; we still use essentially the same calendar that was created centuries before Christ was even born!  But as men like Copernicus, Galilei, and Kepler began to insist upon our rotation around the Sun, the Church went up in arms.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1835 that Galilei’s works were unbanned by the Church, and only in 1992 did Pope John Paul II issue a declaration admitting the Church’s faults against him.

The International Space Station

We all know of the space race in the 1950s and 60s, and since then, man has launched billions of dollars worth of equipment into space to explore the Moon, the other planets, and even other parts of the universe outside our own solar system.  Last year, however, President Obama called for an end to funding NASA.  So with this last shuttle mission from the US, where is the future of space exploration headed?

Our study of the heavens has so enriched our lives here on Earth.  It helps us to understand our concept of time and our physical, elemental make-up.  It’s even lead to the invention of cool gadgets like Velcro!  There is a reason that God made the Universe so vast and a reason he made us curious enough to launch ourselves up there to check it out.  I’m not sure that the Pope and the Italian astronauts will figure out why in their discussion tomorrow, but I think it’s fascinating that they can have a discussion.

FollowupThe Pope blessed the astronauts and thanked them for their work on behalf of science and international peace.