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Lead Vatican astronomer discusses Catholic implications of space tourism


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J-P Mauro - published on 07/31/21

As commercial space travel reaches new heights, Brother Guy Consolmagno is looking beyond the stars.

The world witnessed the conclusion of a new space race in 2021, which saw two companies send commercial passengers into suborbit. These displays demonstrated the industry’s viability, and bring with them the promise of new discoveries. In the midst of such technological achievement, however, one voice is considering such advancements from a Catholic perspective. 

Space tourism

Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Director of the Vatican Observatory recently spoke with Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni on the topic. In the interview, Br. Consolmagno noted that there is a need for regulation of the industry for safety’s sake. As for the commercialization of space travel, he says, it’s just the way of the world

“As the saying goes, ‘No bucks, no Buck Rogers.’ If there’s no way to make money then it’s not going to happen.”

Throughout the commercial space race there has been debate over prohibitive ticket prices. When asked if funds used for such a brief trip to space could be better put to use on more worthy causes, Br. Consolmagno saw value in both sides of the argument. He said:

“There’s a certain justice to that criticism … but there’s a deeper problem and a deeper interest here. We are more than just animals that need to eat; We also need to feed our souls and we do not live by bread alone …” He continued, “After all, you look at the Seven Days of Creation in scripture … the ultimate goal of Creation is the Sabbath. The day that we spend contemplating God and God’s Creation. We are called to do this. We are called to feed the poor so that the poor have the chance to also be able to contemplate Creation, whether it’s through science or art.”

Cosmic custodians

Regulation of space travel is important for a variety of factors, not least of all to prevent any suborbit collisions. Another important factor to consider, however, is humanity’s place as custodians of God’s Creation.

Brother Consolmagno explained that the environmental directions put forth through Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si could very easily be transitioned to space. He noted that biblical references to the world often use the term “cosmos,” suggesting that outer space is counted under the umbrella of God’s Creation. 

“All of this, whether it’s the moon, or a near earth asteroid, or a shuttle above the orbit of the atmosphere earth’s atmosphere, or the place we walk around every day. It’s all God’s Creation. It’s all been entrusted to us to care for.

Not only is the preservation of space important from a custodial mindset, but it is important for faith study. Through study of the extraterrestrial, we find deeper meaning of existence and we get just a little bit closer to understanding the mystery of life. Br. Consolmagno put it in excellent terms. 

“It also reminds us that the blue sky overhead is not some impenetrable barrier that hides us from the rest of the world.” He added, “I was talking to a grade-school teacher the other day and she says her students are asking if there’s life in outer space. Her answer is ‘where do you think you are?’ We are on a planet in outer space and all of this is God’s Creation to study and love and care for.”

Hear the full interview at Vatican News. 

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