Astronauts on the international space station chatted from space with Pope Benedict on Saturday about how research on the space station into renewable energy could help promote peace on Earth. The Pope, speaking from the Vatican, was curious to hear the space station’s current inhabitants’ thoughts, and shuttle Endeavor commander Mark Kelly was quick to offer his ideas on how their solar energy research could help decrease fighting over energy sources on Earth.
“When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?” the Pope asked from the Vatican. “The science and the technology that we put into the space station to develop a solar power capability, pretty much gives us an unlimited amount of energy and if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence,” replied commander Kelly. You may remember that Kelly’s wife Gabrielle Giffords was injured in an assassination attempt on January 8th where six people died and twelve were injured.
The Pope then asked the space station crew about their views on the environmental health of the planet. “On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is, but on the other hand we can really clearly see how fragile it is,” NASA astronaut Ron Garan replied. Garan then added that the space station itself is a symbol that, “shows that by working together and cooperating, we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet.” The space station was built by 16 nations over the span of ten years at 220 miles above the Earth’s surface — at a cost of $100 billion. The astronauts’ message is clear – if we can build a floating living quarters and laboratory in zero gravity, surely we can work together to solve more pressing problems with our feet on solid ground.
All photos by NASA