Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pope Calls the Space Station

"On tap for the crew today: Focused Inspection, EVA Preparation, PAO Events/The Papal Call and some Off Duty Time. #sts134" Wait, The Papal Call? The Pope is calling the space station? I wasn't expecting THAT!

I only now had a chance to watch the video. Irene Klotz wrote out the whole thing on Discovery Blogs if you want to read it instead of watch the video.

I'm not sure what I really expected, but I'm pretty sure not this. Of course it made me cry about four times. The pope reading from his papers sounds so innocent, like a middle school class was assigned a project to write a letter and one student was chosen by the principal to read his letter out loud at the assembly. Skip to 3:50 if you are in a hurry. He talks about science and technology and conservation and peace. I like the way he pronounces "attack" in reference to Gabby Giffords. He segues into a question about how the astronauts think science and technology can help peace on earth. Mark Kelly gives him a very good answer -- most war is over resources. The ISS runs on solar power and the shuttle has fuel cells. Solve the energy crisis with technology, war averted. Ron Garan addresses the pope's question about our responsibility for the future of our planet. His comment about how thin the atmosphere looks from the space station is scientifically odd but it is a good image. I'm just not sure how the thickness of the atmosphere relates to any cause and effect down here on earth.

You can watch past where Ron Garan blatantly plugs his website (8:46) before anybody says anything about God, and it's not the pope. Ten whole minutes before any of it bugged me. At the end the pope speaks in Italian to Paulo Nespoli whose mother just died. "I know in a few days you will come back home and you will not find her waiting for you." What a sweet way to put that. "How have you been living through this time of pain on the International Space Station? Do you feel isolated and alone? Or do you feel united amongst ourselves, in a community that follows you with attention and affection?" Paulo answered, "My colleagues on the space station... were very close to me in this important time, for me a very intense moment." And he said he felt close to all his relatives who were with his mom at the end of her life. It was kind of a personal question but the Pope pulled it off. He also just went from one question to the next without digging them for some sentimental admission. I guess it is sort of a given that the pope is more dignified than Fox news.

I have to admit I kept thinking of Tim Minchin's Pope Song (must be 18 to watch) while I was watching this. I'm only linking and not embedding it here because it would make it seem like it's relevant to the Pope Calls the Space Station video and it's completely unrelated. It made me think of how the actual person and the office are so different. I refer you to the Penn Point (NSFW) where Penn Jillette regrets saying Fuck You to a man right to his face. He says (at 0:55) you should only say Fuck You politically, morally, and conceptually. I think the distinction Penn Jillette makes applies to Tim Minchin's song. He wouldn't watch the pope reading his letter to the astronauts and say Fuck You. His song is about the reprehensible position the pope took on the priest child abuse scandal, which counts as political, moral and conceptual. Plus it's very catchy.

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