ISS Astronauts Could Get an On-orbit Call from the Pope

by

Pope Benedict XVI might make a special call to the international space station during the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s planned 14-day mission, according to a NASA official.

In what would be the first papal call to space, discussions are under way to try to arrange the pope to speak to two Italian astronauts who will be on board the space station, according to NASA spokesman Rob Navias.

NASA is discussing the potential call with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), he said. “No final decision has been made — it is under discussion,” Navias said. “We are discussing with ESA and ASI the potential of the pontiff calling the crew in a scheduled event slot that belongs to ESA.”

European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori, who has flown twice before to the space station, is one of the crewmembers on Endeavour’s STS-134 mission.

The second Italian astronaut, Paolo Nespoli, has been living and working on the international space station since December. Nespoli launched to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Nespoli is expected to return to Earth in September with two of his station crewmates, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev.