Catholics believe the Pope is already closer to God in some ways than anyone else on Earth. But on Thursday, he’s taking it further, by beaming himself up to the heavens.
The pontiff will be giving an address to the International Space Station (ISS) at 9 a.m. ET, arranged via the European Space Agency, with the help of NASA.
This marks only the second papal call to the orbit-based research center, after Pope Benedict XVI phoned in 2011.
And the whole thing is available to watch as it happens, via the Vatican YouTube Channel:
Among the ISS crew is an Italian, 60-year-old Paolo Nespoli, currently on his third mission.
In total, six people are aboard the vessel, including commander Randolph Bresnik, an American, born in Fort Worth, Kentucky, and his fellow countryman Joseph Acaba, the flight engineer, who hails from Inglewood in California.
While science and the spiritual don’t always mix, astronauts have often spoken with religious reverence of the experiences they’ve had out among the stars.
Edgar D. Mitchell, a Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 14 lunar-landing mission, once said: “My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.
“”In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.
“From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty.
“What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I actually felt what has been described as an ecstasy of unity.”
The pope himself has spoken before of the power—and limits—of human technology.
In an April Ted talk, he hailed science as a discipline that “points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else,” according to religionnews.com.