A few days before French astronaut Thomas Pesquet departed the International Space Station, he reflected on his time in space in a heartfelt video titled "New Eyes."
Pesquet returned from his very first trip to space on Friday (June 2), touching down in Kazakhstan with his crewmate, cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, after spending six months aboard the space station.
But before he departed, Pesquet wanted to share a deep and thought-provoking message about humanity and its place in the universe. [Gallery: Thomas Pesquet's Amazing Photos from Space]
"Who am I? A spaceman? A French astronaut?" Pesquet asks himself in the video. "No — I'm a man, together with other men and women on the trip of discovery. And like every trip, it leads to discovering yourself.
"For some reason, it takes all of this technology for us to come up here and understand the simplicity of things — the Earth, the cosmos and life itself as a unity," he said. "From here, it's really difficult to understand borders, wars and hate." When the European Space Agency released the video, they cited the French author Marcel Proust, who once wrote, "The only true voyage of discovery … would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is."
Pesquet is certainly not the first astronaut to experience these feelings about humanity's place in the cosmos. This psychological effect associated with space travel is often referred to as the "overview effect."
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.