Technology helps pope extend reach into space

Pope Benedict XVI has become the first pontiff to communicate directly with astronauts in orbit

Technology has given Pope Benedict XVI a window into space and the astronauts he spoke to the ultimate morale boost.

From his perch at the Vatican, the pope spoke Saturday for about 15 minutes via video link to the crew of the International Space Station and the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour docked alongside.

He talked about world affairs and expressed sympathy for wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head by a would-be assassin at a political event four months ago. Her husband, Mark Kelly, who is of Irish-Catholic descent, is commander of the Endeavour. The astronauts talked about the importance of space exploration.

The pope could see the astronauts on a television screen, but they only heard his voice. No Skype in use on Vatican computers apparently.

It was the first time that the pope has spoken with astronauts in orbit, though Pope Benedict XVI isn't the first pontiff to have a space connection.

Sitting in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon is a disk containing messages from Pope Paul VI in 1969. It was deposited there by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and contains messages from other world leaders of the era.

Pope Paul VI sent then-U.S. President Richard Nixon a telegram, parts of which Nixon read to the crew.

Pope Clement VII would have applauded his successors' actions.

Clement was pontiff when Copernicus first suggested a heliocentric universe. According to Wikipedia, Clement VII was so pleased to have the theories explained to him by his secretary that he gave him a gift as a reward.

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Keir Thomas

PC World (US online)
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