Astronauts prepare Pope Francis for space

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Following a four-month mission at the International Space Station highlighted by a video chat with the pontiff himself, these astronauts have now returned to Earth and made sure to pay the Holy Father a visit in person.

They also brought their families along for the eventful encounter.

“Even the Russian astronaut who is not Catholic wanted to participate in this encounter...”

“Yes, of course, thank you...”

One of the little ones set the tone, warming the hearts of Pope Francis and her parents by presenting the pontiff with this photo of space bearing a Bible verse.

“You're kind, you know, you're kind.”

“She gave it to him and she said, 'God bless you.' I thought it was neat. Here's a man who goes out and blesses millions and billions of people, but for him to get a blessing from a child was really special.”

The gifts didn't end there. To show their appreciation, the astronauts presented Pope Francis with an authentic, customized suit.

“We have decided that to begin with, as you are what you wear, to make you one like ours ...”

“Ah okay! And you plan the trip for me...”

But they decided it wouldn't have been fit for a pontiff without this special modification...

“We have put the Vatican symbol, yours honestly, the Vatican flag”.

“These are the official wings of NASA or the astronauts...”

And as for their visit, it wouldn't have been complete without the Holy Father's autograph on their Bibles.

During the encounter, the astronauts found many parallels between their profession and Pope Francis' vision for themes like the peripheries and care for the common home.

“He was just sharing how important the work that we do is, mixing the science with faith, us being an example of going places that others have not gone and how that can interplay with faith.”

“The indescribable beauty of the look down and you see the gorgeous, vivid colors and the life that's there without conflict, without any strife. It's just very peaceful. It's humbling and wonderful at the same time. As we work to get more people to space to see that perspective, then maybe they're touched in their souls in the same way, maybe we'll be better to ourselves, as well as to our home planet.”

NASA's Expedition 53 was carried out from September to December 2017, and the astronauts represented the United States, Russia and Italy. Maybe the next mission will have a representative from Vatican City.

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