Friday was an interesting day for Pope Francis, not that anyone is assuming the Holy Father’s agenda was otherwise unbooked.
The supreme pontiff and sovereign of the Vatican City State was paid a visit by five astronauts who were part of Expedition 53 on board the International Space Station (ISS), Tech 2 reports.
The Expedition 53 crew — commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and his flight engineers, U.S. astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency — had been invited to the Vatican for a private audience with the pontiff ever since last year.
This was their second meeting of sorts with Pope Francis, who had previously talked to the astronauts during an Earth-to-space video call on October 27, 2017, which you can watch in the video below.
During the 20-minute space call, Pope Francis told the ISS crew that they were privileged to have a unique view of our planet, which allowed them to see Earth “from the eyes of God.”
At the same time, the supreme pontiff extended the astronauts an invitation to join him at the Vatican for a private get-together, which Nespoli and four of his former colleagues — three NASA astronauts and one cosmonaut — happily honored on June 8.
But the astronauts didn’t show up empty-handed, notes Reuters. The Expedition 53 crew came bearing a mighty gift, worthy of the supreme pontiff.
To honor Pope Francis, the astronauts presented him with his very own space suit — a custom-made blue jumpsuit similar to ones the ISS crew normally wears on board the space station.
“Since clothes make the man, we thought we’d have a flight suit like ours made for you,” Nespoli told Pope Francis in Italian.
The pope was visibly pleased by the original token of appreciation and even jokingly arranged with the astronauts for them to plan his trip to the ISS.
The custom-made papal space suit was fashioned from the same material that the astronauts wear in orbit and was inscribed with the pope’s name at birth, Jorge Bergoglio, and the flag of his native country, Argentina.
To set it apart from the other ISS jumpsuits, the gift for Pope Francis was adorned with one spectacular detail that made the delight of the entire meeting — a small white cape, the mark of papal distinction.
“Since you are the Holy Father and the Holy Father has his own uniform, we made a cape,” Nespoli explained.
According to the sources, the small white cape was embroidered with the words “Pope Francis” and bore the Vatican flag along with the official NASA wings logo.
As Space.com reported last year, Pope Francis became the second supreme pontiff to call the space station, after Pope Benedict XVI dialed up the 12-member crew of Expedition 27 in 2011.