European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet was allowed to take 1.5 kg, or about 3.3 lbs, of personal items with him to the International Space Station, where he’s been since November. Among those items, Pesquet managed to squeeze in a little something special for his friends, who are getting married this summer.
On Sunday, he posted a photo of their wedding rings, floating in almost-zero gravity aboard the station.
“In my 1.5 kg ‘hand luggage,’ I brought the wedding rings of my friends getting married this summer!” he wrote in French and English on Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. “I’ll be back in time to be their witness.”
We still don’t know who the lucky couple is or whose idea it was to send the rings into space. What we do know is that the beauty of the image and the kindness of the gesture have moved thousands of people to comment on Pesquet’s social media accounts.
Many of them sound better in French: “C’est extraordinaire, ce symbole n’en sera que plus fort!” wrote one Instagram follower. That translates to: “It is extraordinary, this symbol couldn’t be stronger!”
On Facebook, someone wrote that the rings “are like two little stars that shine in the vastness of the sky.”
Many of the commenters agreed that this is loading symbolism on top of symbolism. The circular shape of rings first inspired ancient Egyptians to use them as an emblem of eternity. The ring finger was thought to have a special vein that connects directly to the heart. (Well, sure it does, just like the rest of your body.)
The ISS is in orbit about 248 miles above Earth — not exactly “outer” space, but that’s the farthest people are getting these days. Although we can’t surmise what Pesquet’s friends intended, their rings seem to be reminding us simultaneously of just how small two people’s lives are in the grand scheme of the universe, and just how big two people can feel that their love is.
Their marriage is also, apparently, something that deserves this extraordinary gesture by an astronaut. Now there’s one more layer: By the magic of the Internet, their union is blessed around the world by all of Pesquet’s followers. The 39-year-old astronaut will return to Earth this May. Let’s just hope he doesn’t accidentally leave those rings back on the station!
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