The Head of NASA talks about the work of the Vatican Observatory in the skies

The Head of NASA talks about the work of the Vatican Observatory in the skies
The Head of NASA talks about the work of the Vatican Observatory in the skies

In an interview with Vatican News, NASA Chief Bill Nelson reveals space collaboration between the Holy See and the United States, praises the Vatican Observatory for shedding light on the heavens, and shares how space travel teaches valuable lessons about human brotherhood.

Deborah Castellano Lubov – Vatican City

“I am very happy that the Vatican is so involved in space issues, with its Observatory, which says a lot about the exploration of the heavens.”

In an interview with Vatican News, this was the sentiment expressed by NASA Chief Administrator Bill Nelson, who spoke of the ongoing collaboration between the US and the Holy See on space cooperation, how space exploration contributes to human fraternity, and how Pope Francis’ teachings have set a powerful example for the world.

The world-renowned space expert, who has led and trained space missions, also revealed why he is in Rome to participate in the Vatican’s #BeHuman Human Fraternity meetings this weekend, and how space offers a valuable lesson for humanity. human brotherhood.

Administrator Nelson, a former senator, also traveled to Italy this week as part of NASA’s efforts to strengthen space relationships around the world and support peaceful space exploration.

He met with the President of the Italian Space Agency to discuss current and future collaborations, including the Artemis Campaign to return to the Moon, the International Space Station, exploration of Mars and Venus, and ground-based science missions to study our own planet.

Administrator Nelson, many may not be aware of the long-standing cooperation between the United States and the Holy See in space exploration. Could you shed light on the valuable collaboration between the two?

Of course. Most people don’t even know about the Vatican Observatory and its interest in space, which dates back to the time of Copernicus and Galileo and the advancement of science since then.

Curiously, one of the scientists from the Vatican Observatory participates with us at NASA, in our mission to return samples from an asteroid. Although the mission is called OSIRIS-REx, we actually returned a sample from an asteroid called Bennu, and that sample is now at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It is beginning to be examined by scientists, and one of those scientists is right here in the Vatican.

The fact that the Vatican has an Observatory says a lot about the exploration of the heavens. I remember in Genesis, the first line that was repeated by our astronauts when they orbited the moon for the first time. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That was on Apollo 8, when they circled the back side of the Moon and suddenly saw the Earth, and with those words they addressed the inhabitants of the Earth on Christmas Day 1968. I am very glad that the Vatican is so involved with its Observatory in space affairs.

He is also in Rome for the meetings of the Human Fraternity #BeHuman on May 11. In your opinion, why is this meeting significant and why has it attracted your attention and participation?

At the beginning, I was kindly invited to give a presentation to the participants, mostly Nobel Peace Prize winners, about the Earth, and how one perceives it, from space, namely, the fact that the Earth is so beautiful, so colorful, and, at the same time, it seems so fragile, suspended, in the nothingness of space.

I also observed from the sidelines as an elected official, when I flew in space 38 years ago, that I observed, while orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, that I saw no racial division. I saw no religious division. I didn’t see political division. When you look at the Earth, you see the Earth from the perspective that we are all citizens of planet Earth.

And while they were discussing issues of peace, of reconciliation, of human rights at this meeting, they invited me to make some initial comments, which I gladly did from the perspective of seeing the Earth from space.

From his vast experience, ranging from having trained and flown with the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, mission STS-61C, the 24th flight of the space shuttle, which orbited the Earth 98 times over six days, to being the congressional leader for the American space program, advocating to combat climate change, and being an advocate for vocational training and educational programs in science and technology, has there been anything in Pope Francis’ teachings that has impacted you?

Well, Pope Francis leads by example. The two great commandments given by Jesus of Nazareth are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second of the great commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself. And I think that’s what Pope Francis preaches all the time. He leads by example.

Administrator Nelson, you’ve had a very busy week. Can you share what has been catching her attention…

This is the first stop to go to another country, Saudi Arabia, which has participated with the United States in our space program. In fact, when I flew on the space shuttle 38 years ago, a Saudi astronaut, Prince Sultan, had flown on the mission just before me. I hope to see you when I am in Saudi Arabia.

More recently, two Saudi astronauts flew to the International Space Station, and I will be meeting them as well. But I want to encourage Saudi officials, including their space agency, to continue their cooperation, because we are in this unique position where we can bring people together in the civil space program, together as friends, as colleagues, as partners, together. a way that governments often struggle with, often unable to relate to each other.

However, we can do it just as easily through our civilian space program. It is illustrative that on the International Space Station, 15 nations participate and engage with the astronauts they lead, and conduct scientific experiments on the space station. This is an important message that I convey.

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