Pope phones astronauts in 1st papal call to space

-A A +A

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The 12 astronauts circling the Earth got a call from a much higher authority Saturday.

Pope Benedict XVI made the first ever papal call to space. He addressed the shuttle and station crews from the Vatican. Two Italians are on board: Endeavour astronaut Roberto Vittori and International Space Station resident Paolo Nespoli.

The pope said he admired the astronauts' courage, discipline and commitment. He added that he hopes shuttle commander Mark Kelly's wife continues to improve. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, his wife, was shot in Tucson, Ariz., in January. Kelly thanked him for his kind words.

The long-distance papal audience was arranged by the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA provided technical support from Houston.