Friday, May 20, 2011

Space station crews to receive call from the Pope

The twelve crew members aboard the combined International Space Station and shuttle Endeavour will receive a special call from his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pope, who turned 84 in April, will place the call from the Vatican in Italy.

This aerospace reporter on Friday asked Endeavour's Lead Flight Director Derek Hassmann (right) to share his thoughts on the Papal call to the space station, a first for the Vatican in space flight history, "This flight has been a series of firsts, and I guess we first started talking about this phone call a few weeks ago. And, when we had the launch delay, there were doubt's or questions about if it would still happen."

Pope Benedict XVI will place the call to the orbiting laboratory, routed through the Johnson Space Center near Houston, beginning at 7:11 a.m. EDT (11:11 GMT) on Saturday.

"I'm personally thrilled and honored that we found a way to make it happen. It's a pretty amazing event in a series of amazing events for (STS) 134," Hassmann added.

The video call is expected to last twenty minutes, and will mark the first time a Pope has spoken to spacecraft in earth orbit.

The majority of the video call will be in English, however Pope Benedict will speak to the two Italian's aboard, Paulo Nespoli of the station's Expedition 27 crew and Endeavour astronaut Roberto Vittori, in Italian.

Meanwhile, flight controllers have instructed Endeavour's crew to take a look at a chipped tile underneath the space shuttle by using the ship's robotic arm attached to a boom sensor.

The inspection is set to begin at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday as Endeavour's pilot Greg Johnson guides the arm over to look at a damaged tile located near the door of the right main landing gear well.

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