ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst recorded a message in German to his future grandchildren from the International Space Station’s Cupola observatory during his Horizons mission in 2018.
Alexander’s message in English is as follows:
You have not been born yet, and I do not know if I will ever meet you, so I’ve decided to record this message for you.
I’m on the International Space Station in the Cupola Observation Module gazing down at your beautiful planet. And although I’ve now almost spent a year of my life in space and looked at Earth every single day, I just can’t get enough of this view.
I know it probably sounds strange to you, but at the time the Space Station was built and was up here in orbit, not everyone was able to travel into space and see the Earth from a distance. Before me, only around 500 people had the chance. At this very moment, there are 7 billion people living down there on Earth and only three of them live in space. And when I look down at the planet, I think I need to apologise to you.
Right now, it looks like we – my generation – are not going to leave this planet in its best condition for you. Of course, in retrospect many people will say they weren’t aware of what we were doing. But in reality, we humans know that right now we’re polluting the planet with carbon dioxide, we're making the climate reach tipping point, we’re clearing forests, we’re polluting the oceans with garbage, we’re consuming the limited resources far too quickly, and we’re waging mostly pointless wars.
And every one of us has to take a good look at themselves and think about where this is leading. I very much hope for our own sake that we can still get our act together and improve a few things. And I hope that we won’t be remembered by you as the generation who selfishly and ruthlessly destroyed your livelihood.
I’m sure you understand these things much better than my generation. And who knows, maybe we’ll learn something new, such as: taking a step always helps; this fragile spaceship called Earth is much smaller than most people can imagine; how fragile the Earth’s biosphere is and how limited its resources are; that it's worth getting along with your neighbours; that dreams are more valuable than money and you have to give them a chance; that boys and girls can do things equally well, but that every one of you has one thing that he or she can do much better than all the others; that the simple explanations are often wrong and that one’s own point of view is always incomplete; that the future is more important than the past; that one should never fully grow up; and that opportunities only come along once. You have to take a risk for things that are worth it, and any day during which you discovered something new – one where you gazed beyond your horizon – is a good day.
I wish I could look into the future through your eyes, into your world and how you see it. Unfortunately, that is not possible and therefore the only thing that remains for me is to try to make your future the best one I can possibly imagine.
International Space Station – Commander of Expedition 57 – Alexander Gerst – 25 November 2018 – 400 km above the Earth's surface