03/27/2023, 15.59
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'Spei satelles': a message of hope from Pope Francis in orbit around the Earth

A small satellite will carry a microscopic silicon plate with the words and images of the "Statio Orbis" that Francis held three years ago during the pandemic. The launch is scheduled for 10 June on a Falcon 9 rocket at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It will orbit in space at an altitude of 525 kilometres and be available on amateur UHF-band radio.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – On 27 March 2020, while the world stood still and nonplussed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis presided over the "Statio Orbis" before the Eucharist in St Peter's Square, inviting the world to look to the source of hope.

Exactly three years later, in a context where war has led to new angst and fear, the Holy See announced today a symbolic gesture to give continuity to that message.

The images and words spoken that day by Francis – with his call to recognise each other as children of the one Father on a boat battered by the storm –will go into space on 10 June in a mission promoted by the Holy See in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana).

CubeSat, a miniaturised satellite made by students at the Polytechnic University of Turin (Politecnico di Torino), will carry a nanobook, a microscopic silicon plate with engraved "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”, a book produced by the Vatican Dicastery for Communication with the contents of the historic moment presided over by Pope Francis on 27 March 2020.

Made by Italy’s National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), the nanobook is less than two millimetres, but thanks to micro and nanofabrication technologies, it contains texts and images engraved in a binary code readable over time.

The CubeSat itself, which will be launched on the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, is called "Spei Satelles”, playing on the Latin meaning of the term, namely “guardian of hope”.

The microsatellite measures just 34x10x10 cm and weighs less than 3 kg, with an external surface covered with solar panels.

It also contains two UHF band communication systems through which Pope Francis's messages of hope will also broadcast on a band that any amateur radio operator on Earth can pick up.

The initiative comes with its own website in an original form, to allow people to “participate" in the mission.

As is the case in many space launches, anyone can register with a special boarding pass. But in this case – in addition to indicating one's name – people will be asked to pledge to do work of mercy on Earth so that there may be hope and fraternity for all in the world.

People will also be able to register their names in a dedicated memory chip that will fly aboard Spei Satelles. For organisers, participants’ name “will be written in the heavens because you chose to sow hope on earth”.

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