Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints.
Today, we take advantage of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing to jump out of the usual sequence and go to 1969. The first part of today’s guestbook entry is from February 15, 1969, when Frank Borman made a visit.
Next to his name, Col. Frank Borman, USAF (1928–) wrote, “Houston, Texas”. He came with his wife Susan and his two sons, Edwin and Fred, who also signed the book.
Frank was an astronaut with NASA. He was mission commander on the Gemini 7 mission. After the disaster of Apollo 1 that killed its crew, Borman’s testimony helped convince Congress to continue the Apollo program.
On Christmas Eve of 1968, Col. Borman and his crewmates on Apollo 8, Jim Lovell and William Anders, became the first human beings ever to enter orbit around another world. From orbit around the moon, they made a Christmas broadcast in which they read from the book of Genesis and wished everyone “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” During their 10 orbits, they also captured the famous “Earthrise” photograph of the Earth emerging from behind the moon.
Frank Borman’s visit to the Vatican Observatory was less than two months after this historic event. During the visit, he presented Fr. Daniel O’Connell (the director of the observatory) with a signed copy of the photo.
During the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, Borman was on Earth, watching from the Oval Office of the White House. He had been assigned to serve as NASA’s liaison with President Nixon during that historic event.
For a bonus “entry” in the guest book (and to make up for not having one last week), we turn to July 21, 1969, when Pope St. Paul VI made a visit.
He did not sign the guest book for this visit. He did sign it on other occasions, but that’s a subject for another entry.
Nevertheless, there is a signature. He signed a photograph of himself that was taken at the event. His signature reads, “Paulus PP. VI,” under which he wrote “20-VII-1969.”
On the early morning of July 21 (or very late the night of the 20th, depending on how you look at it), he made a visit to our telescope domes in the Pontifical Villas, where he and Fr. O’Connell watched the landing of Apollo 11 on television. Also from the Schmidt telescope dome, he made an address to the astronauts, congratulating them on their venture and blessing their endeavors.
Below are two video links. The first is full-color television coverage of Pope Paul VI’s visit, including his address (in Italian, with English in the last part where he addresses the astronauts directly). The second is the audio of the Pope’s address presented over still photographs. It is shorter and the audio quality is much better.