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The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles

The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles

5.0 12
by Ron Garan, Muhammad Yunus (Foreword by)

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For astronaut Ron Garan, living on the International Space Station was a powerful, transformative experience—one that he believes holds the key to solving our problems here on Earth.

On space walks and through windows, Garan was struck by the stunning beauty of the Earth from space but sobered by knowing how much needed to be done to help this troubled


For astronaut Ron Garan, living on the International Space Station was a powerful, transformative experience—one that he believes holds the key to solving our problems here on Earth.

On space walks and through windows, Garan was struck by the stunning beauty of the Earth from space but sobered by knowing how much needed to be done to help this troubled planet. And yet on the International Space Station, Garan, a former fighter pilot, was working work side by side with Russians, who only a few years before were “the enemy.” If fifteen nationalities could collaborate on one of the most ambitious, technologically complicated undertakings in history, surely we can apply that kind of cooperation and innovation toward creating a better world. That spirit is what Garan calls the “orbital perspective.”

Garan vividly conveys what it was like learning to work with a diverse group of people in an environment only a handful of human beings have ever known. But more importantly, he describes how he and others are working to apply the orbital perspective here at home, embracing new partnerships and processes to promote peace and combat hunger, thirst, poverty, and environmental destruction. This book is a call to action for each of us to care for the most important space station of all: planet Earth. You don't need to be an astronaut to have the orbital perspective. Garan's message of elevated empathy is an inspiration to all who seek a better world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Debut author Garan, an astronaut who has spent 178 days in space, offers a well-considered set of strategies for curing social ills and improving the world, gleaned from the history of space travel and his thoughts while viewing Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). His philosophy centers on global cooperation, inspired by the creation of the ISS, the “largest, most daring peacetime international collaboration in history,” during which the U.S. and Russia overcame long-standing rivalries, language barriers, and cultural differences in pursuit of a common goal. As another compelling example, Garan recalls the successful rescue of the trapped Chilean miners, for which NASA officials were enlisted, along with psychologists and various private enterprises. Other current innovations done through mass collaboration discussed here include a satellite system for detecting weather and natural disasters, a project to advise farmers in developing countries on what and how much to plant, and user-driven websites like Wikipedia. Garan highlights some important structural flaws in humanitarian work as it’s currently practiced, noting that donors reward short-term methods and “new and shiny” results over consistency and a broader scope. His thesis that “Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe” rings powerfully true, and his lessons are particularly apt for those working in the nonprofit sector. Agent: Amy Moore-Benson, AMB Literary Management. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“Life on Earth is experienced two-dimensionally—with all of the distortion that that implies. Such a blinkered view is impossible from orbit, where you take in whole sweeps of the borderless globe in a glance. Garan's book, The Orbital Perspective movingly explains the impact of such a perspective shift—one that by no means occurs for every astronaut. In Garan's case—and perhaps Garan's alone—the message is how the rest of us can put his lessons to use. The Orbital Perspective could wind up being the most important tale ever told from space.”
—Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine

"His thesis that 'Earth is a small town with many neighborhoods in a very big universe' rings powerfully true, and his lessons are particularly apt for those working in the nonprofit sector."
—Publishers Weekly

“The Orbital Perspective is an inspirational knockout. After reading this book you will refuse to accept the status quo on our planet.”
—Wladimir Klitschko, PhD, Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World and founder of Klitschko Management Group

“This is more than just a book; it is a call to action and a catalyst for a necessary movement. We need to look beyond what we think is possible and reimagine a world in which no one is limited by his or her circumstances. This is a defining book for a defining time in human history.”
—Daniel Epstein, founder and CEO, Unreasonable Group

“Written from Ron Garan's unique perspective as an astronaut, The Orbital Perspective reminds us of our common humanity and that the pressing challenges we face, we must face and resolve together through tolerance, dialogue, and cooperation.”
—Kofi A. Annan, Nobel Peace Laureate and Chair, Kofi Annan Foundation

“It is said that to understand a problem properly you need to get outside of it. Ron Garan has certainly done that. Ron's focus is on finding new connections and collaborations that cross borders of all sorts that might just allow us to transform the world for the better before we destroy this big blue ball we call home.”
—Peter Gabriel, musician and a founder of WOMAD, Witness, and The Elders

“Ron Garan's breakthrough book is one of a kind. Never before has a firsthand account of lessons learned in space been applied to firsthand humanitarian development work on Earth. Ron masterfully synthesizes the big-picture view of our world with the ground-level details necessary to overcome the barriers to improving life for all people”
—Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

“Astronaut Ron Garan's fabulous book will transport you from the magnificent sense of possibility in outer space to the perspective of a worm on Earth's rich soil and will reassert our fundamental connection to one another in ways that challenge and inspire. We all need more of an orbital perspective to remind us that, in the end, we only have each other.”
—Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen, and author of The Blue Sweater

“A wonderful call to shift our point of view from local to global, from myopic to orbital. This consciousness-altering, ego-dissolving, mind-reconfiguring experience renders our common purpose clear: we are the frontal lobes of this Pale Blue Dot and we need to leverage our collective genius to overcome our challenges and unleash our potential. Bravo!”
—Jason Silva, filmmaker, media artist, and host of National Geographic Channel's Brain Games

“Put a humanitarian into a spacesuit and keep sending him into space and books like this are bound to be written. You see, global problems can have a personal solution.”
—Keith Cowing, Executive Director, Space College Foundation

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

The Orbital Perspective

Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of Seventy-One Million Miles

By Ronald J. Garan Jr.

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Ronald J. Garan, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62656-248-6


Humanity's Home in the Heavens

* On July 17, 1975, at 7:19 p.m. GMT, Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov and American astronaut Tom Stafford reached across the hatches of their docked Soyuz and Apollo spacecraft and shook hands 140 miles above Earth. The event, which represented the end of a long, expensive space race and the beginning of a movement toward the peaceful exploration of space, was the end result of an agreement forged in May 1972, when President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin formalized a commitment to making a peaceful joint program of space exploration a reality. Speaking on the significance of this agreement, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev noted, "The Soviet and American spacemen will go up into outer space for the first major joint scientific experiment in the history of mankind. They know that from outer space our planet looks even more beautiful. It is big enough for us to live peacefully on it, but it is too small to be threatened by nuclear war."

The Apollo–Soyuz mission was heralded as a breakthrough in Cold War diplomacy, but the collaboration was short-lived, and the end of the mission marked the end of the two countries' real cooperation in human spaceflight for nearly two decades. According to George Abbey, former head of the Johnson Space Center, the Soviets wanted to continue working with the Americans on joint missions after the Apollo–Soyuz mission, but the Americans did not wish to continue. Instead, the Americans saw their own space shuttle on the horizon, with its revolutionary promise of relatively safe, inexpensive access to space and a flight rate of fifty to sixty missions per year. It was envisioned that the shuttle would herald a new era of U.S. space exploration, including enabling the construction of a massive space station. With all these things on the horizon, the United States didn't see a compelling reason to continue to partner with the Soviets.

Over the next two decades, the Soviets continued their pioneering work in space station launch and design, which had begun with the launch of the first space station in history, Salyut 1, in 1971. A couple of years after the Apollo– Soyuz docking, in 1977, the Soviets created the second generation Salyut station, followed in 1986 by the construction of Space Station Mir, the name of which means "peace" or "world." Meanwhile, the United States was building its space shuttle and pursuing its goal of building Space Station Freedom.

Unfortunately, the space shuttle would never live up to its promise of being inexpensive, safe, or easy to operate at a high frequency, and because of the shuttle's shortfalls, as well as a change in political will and funding, the dream of constructing a massive, highly capable U.S. space station languished. Since the early 1980s, roughly $11.4 billion had been spent, and the station had been redesigned several times, but by 1992 no hardware had been delivered to space, and congressional support was drying up. Space Station Freedom was most likely going to die before a single component had been launched, and even if it didn't get canceled, it would be over budget and way behind schedule. On the Russian side, Mir, which was scheduled to be superseded by Mir-2, was also in trouble. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent financial problems, it was apparent that the Russians would not be able to afford to launch and assemble Mir-2.

Thus, by the early nineties the geopolitical and space program planets aligned and the time was ripe to readdress a Russian–U.S. partnership in space exploration. The rudiments of the planned Space Station Freedom and the planned Space Station Mir-2 could be repurposed into an international program. The Americans would gain experience docking shuttles to a large station, and with the Russians, would develop the docking system that would eventually be used on the International Space Station (ISS).

The plan, which became known as the Shuttle–Mir program, immediately leveraged both the U.S. and Russian space programs. All of a sudden, we would have two spacecraft capable of carrying humans into space, and each space program would bring unique solutions to different pieces of the puzzle, adding value to the partnership. The Americans had little experience in operating a space station; the Russians had vast experience. The Russians also knew how to build modules cheaply, and billions of dollars could potentially be saved by merging the Russian and American space station programs. The American space program, on the other hand, was much better funded, and the space shuttle could provide badly needed resupply to the aging Mir and serve as the long-term workhorse for construction of the ISS. Two big programs that were headed toward the cliff could be salvaged.


In June 1992, President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an agreement, which evolved under the Clinton administration, to undertake the Shuttle–Mir program, the first phase in a long-term plan for cooperation in space. Plans to build the U.S.-led Space Station Freedom would be abandoned and Russia would join a new partnership to design and build what eventually became the International Space Station. This program, in the eyes of politicians in both countries, solved myriad problems. Russia saw its partnership with the United States, Europe, Canada, and Japan as a way to achieve acceptance by Western nations while keeping its deteriorating Mir program going. Perhaps the most important benefit, in the U.S. view, was that pumping money into the Russian space program would discourage Russian rocket scientists and missile technology from being exported to countries with a desire to do harm to the United States and its allies. This was a particular concern, given the recent collapse of the Soviet Union and the uncertain future in that country.

A number of technical meetings followed the Shuttle–Mir agreement. In July 1993, for instance, Yuri Semenov, chief of Energia, the now-commercial former Soviet Design Bureau, held a symposium in the United States to discuss Mir and to attract interest in and business to the Russian space station. Semenov gave approval for the top Energia people associated with Mir to attend and, for the first time, to speak openly about the space station and its capabilities. It was an extraordinary, historic, and successful symposium—a rich technical exposé of this orbiting facility that had been shrouded in secrecy.

Following the symposium, the Russians and Americans began a series of meetings in Crystal City, Virginia. These meetings occurred in a nondescript, nameless conference room in a building that both the Russian and American participants referred to as oden, oden, oden, because ah-dyin ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is the Russian word for "one" and the building's street number was 111. The goal of these meetings was to explore ways the United States and Russia could collaborate in space and would prove to be a critical turning point in the two nations' destiny in space. These initial technical meetings both indicated and fostered a real desire to work together, which is probably best illustrated by the lengths to which people from both countries were willing go to ensure the project kept moving forward.

For instance, although Russia was in a state of turmoil and the country was seemingly falling apart, George Abbey, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, and other NASA personnel traveled to Moscow in October 1993 to meet with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, and negotiate Russia's entrance into the ISS program. The group arrived in the middle of a ten-day conflict in which, according to government estimates, 187 people were killed and 437 were wounded; estimates from nongovernment sources put the death toll as high as two thousand. President Yeltsin, facing impeachment by many members of the Russian Duma, called on the military to end the rebellion. Despite the turmoil, meetings were conducted at Roscosmos headquarters in the northern part of Moscow, just outside the Garden Ring.

On October 3, the Russian and American delegations gathered around a large, round table while gunfire echoed outside. Goldin recalled watching TV and thinking it was like being in a movie. "You could see people bashing in buses, throwing them over. You could hear machine guns firing." That evening, armed proparliament demonstrators advanced on the Ostankino television center, not far from the Penta hotel where the NASA contingent was staying. As the demonstrators approached the TV complex, military units met them and a fierce battle ensued. Part of the TV center was significantly damaged, television stations went off the air, and sixty-two people were killed.

Goldin called Washington for guidance on whether the delegation should leave the city. Soon a call came back: "The President of the United States would like to show support for democracy in Russia. If it's safe, please stay." Goldin called the group together to take a vote. Every single person voted to stay.

By sunrise the next day the Russian army had encircled the parliament building, and a few hours later army tanks began to shell the Russian White House. Meanwhile, the NASA contingent was getting ready to head from the hotel to resume negotiations at Roscosmos headquarters. Abbey recalled seeing tanks firing into the White House on television and then, a few seconds later, hearing the blasts and seeing the smoke rising outside.

Even in the presence of this much instability and uncertainty about the future of their country, the Russians were still willing to talk about cooperation in space. Likewise, the effort was so important to the Americans that they were willing to risk life and limb to push the partnership forward. Space rose above the fray. As Goldin put it, "That day of revolution, we negotiated the Russian entry into the International Space Station." There was great motivation on both sides to move things forward because, in reality, both sides needed each other.


The Shuttle–Mir program began in earnest on February 3, 1994, with the launch of Space Shuttle Mission STS-60. On the middeck of Space Shuttle Discovery, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was making his third trip to space. Krikalev would go on to fly three more space missions, including two ISS missions, and ended up spending more time in space than anyone in history—an astonishing 804 days.

A year and three days later, on February 6, 1995, during the STS-63 mission, Shuttle Commander Jim Wetherbee maneuvered Discovery to within 36 feet of Space Station Mir. On board Mir were Mir-17 commander Aleksandr Viktorenko and cosmonauts Yelena Kondakova and Valeri Polyakov. There was to be no docking on this mission, just a close approach and partial flight around the station. The mission was a dress rehearsal of sorts for the first docking to the station.

As Wetherbee approached Mir he radioed, "As we are bringing our spaceships closer together, we are bringing our nations closer together. The next time we approach, we will shake your hand and together we will lead our world into the next millennium." Viktorenko responded, "We are one! We are human!"

For Mike Foale, who was on board Discovery, the realization of the importance of the mission actually came later:

We all thought this Mir thing was kind of a jaunt—it was just an add-on [to the mission], albeit exciting. But it was when MCC-Houston [Mission Control Center, Houston] sent up a crappy picture made from a TV picture downloaded from Mir to MCC-Moscow—a really bad black-and-white image of us on the shuttle, coming up to the Mir—that it suddenly dawned on us that we had done something really important. It was that view of us from the Russians' point of view that brought out a key issue in collaboration, and that's looking at the world through the other person's eyes.

The first shuttle docking to Mir came in June 1995, during STS-71, when Shuttle Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson docked Space Shuttle Atlantis to the station. This was the first time that the U.S. space shuttle, which was designed to construct and dock to an American space station, had ever docked to anything. The mission delivered Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Nikolai Budarin to Mir and gave American astronaut Norm Thagard a ride home following his historic first U.S. mission on board Mir. He had launched to the space station nearly four months earlier aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.


The Shuttle–Mir program continued until 1998. In all, seven U.S. astronauts spent nearly one thousand days on the orbiting space station. At times the relationship was strained by various emergencies and crises. In 1997, for instance, a fire broke out on board, threatening the life of the crew, including American astronaut Jerry Linenger. Later that year, the unmanned Russian cargo ship Progress collided with the station. The collision breached Mir's hull and sent the crew, including American astronaut Mike Foale, scrambling to cut off the damaged part of the station and isolate the subsequent depressurization as the space station's air leaked out into the vacuum of space. Incredibly, despite the severity of the situation, the crew was able to isolate the leaking section of the station, but the aftermath of the collision left the orbiting complex tumbling and without power for many hours.

Such life-threatening events put a serious strain on the U.S.–Russian relationship, but they also helped forge a degree of trust. In the hours after the cargo ship collision, for instance, the crew had no choice but to collaborate to save their lives, and after the initial emergency was over, the United States and Russia improved their national collaboration out of necessity, to save the Shuttle–Mir program. The Russians became more willing to share technical data about their space operations, and the Americans came to prove they were in it for the long haul. The Americans demonstrated that they believed the partnership was valuable enough to continue flying American astronauts to the station, even though the continued U.S. presence on board Mir was a very controversial decision fraught with political bickering.

The decision of all parties to stay the course proved to be a critical component in building the trust that was to become the foundation of the International Space Station program. The lessons learned during the Shuttle–Mir program enabled the fifteen nations of the International Space Station partnership—which includes Canada, the nations of the European Space Agency, Japan, Russia, and the United States—to embark on the largest, most daring peacetime international collaboration in history.

The first component of the ISS was launched in 1998, and the station has been continuously inhabited since November 2000, surpassing the previous record of nearly ten years' continuous human presence in low Earth orbit—held by Mir, of course.

However, the ISS program has also had its share of challenges to overcome to keep the partnership together, some of which we will detail in the next chapter. No challenge was more dire and critical, though, than the aftermath of the morning of February 1, 2003—the day Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing the crew of Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon. In the wake of the disaster, the shuttle fleet was grounded for more than two years while new safety measures were incorporated into the design.

During this period, the Russians picked up the slack, transporting crew members to and from the ISS. But as the grounding of the shuttles dragged on, there was much concern among the ISS partners that the United States would be unable to fulfill its commitments to the construction of the space station. In June 2005, newly appointed NASA Administrator Mike Griffin faced this concern head-on at a meeting of ISS partners in Paris. Essentially, Griffin's counterparts from the partner space agencies were saying, "If you don't complete the ISS, we will never work with you again, because we will have all lost our jobs." The international partners were very concerned, and they were very aware that the decision to finish the space station was seriously in doubt.


Excerpted from The Orbital Perspective by Ronald J. Garan Jr.. Copyright © 2015 Ronald J. Garan, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Col. Ron Garan (USAF ret.) is a decorated fighter pilot, astronaut, aquanaut, and entrepreneur. He has logged 178 days in space and 71 million miles in orbit. He is the founder of the nonprofit social enterprise incubator Manna Energy Foundation and has worked with the US Agency for International Development. Col. Garan is also the founder of Fragile Oasis (FragileOasis.org), an effort to use the orbital perspective to inspire positive social and environmental action.

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The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"You don't need to be an astronaut to have the orbital perspective.." I've never reviewed a book before. I've read lots of them, sure, but I've never gotten around to sharing my thoughts on something I've read. However after reading "The Orbital Perspective," the newly released book by astronaut Ron Garan, I've never felt so compelled to spread a universal message before. That is, the message of trust, hope, and global collaboration. Having flown in space twice, including a five and a half month flight to the International Space Station in 2011, Garan has seen the beauty of planet Earth from space. He beautifully recalls the history and stories of the US-Russian space programmes, and how both nations have evolved from being the bitterest of enemies, into the friendliest of partners on board the ISS. This is more than just a good book, nor is it just a book that only the space enthusiasts in your life should read. It appeals to everyone of all ages and nations who would like to see the Earth in a better state than it's already in. Astronauts and cosmonauts always say that if everyone could get the opportunity to see our planet from space, that the world would be a better place. The same is true for this book. If everyone could get their hands on Ron Garan's new book "The Orbital Perspective," the world and we, the citizens of "spaceship Earth" would be much better off. After reading it, one immediately feels that all of the problems that we face on planet Earth today are able to be overcome. The only question we need to ask ourselves is how exactly do we knock down the barriers that stand in place between nations being able to trust one another, and Ron Garan certainly does a fantastic job in coming up with possible solutions. Garan has successfully just written the textbook that will provide people from all corners of the globe with the information on how to view ourselves and our planet a little differently- by shifting our perspective to that of the orbital perspective. Immerse yourself in a journey around the world, hearing first-hand stories of successful cooperation between different nations and organisations working toward a common good, all from the comfort of your home.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My home is earth. Along with many others, I probably take my ‘home’ for granted, but I’ve read enough by various astronauts to know that, once you’ve seen our planet from way above - the ‘orbital perspective’ - you see it differently. Garan’s book starts out in a similar vein to other books by astronauts. As a space fan, I was highly entertained by the space stories and some previously unheard snippets of information - complemented in the enhanced ebook by the sometimes hilarious (obviously a good sense of humour is important for astronaut selection) videos between chapters. But this book explores more than just space. This book makes you THINK. As a human being, I couldn’t help but be inspired by Garan’s enthusiasm to improve life for everyone in our ‘home’. Like many others, I have long been frustrated by the injustices in this world, but … how could I do anything? Simple - ‘the key is WE’. ‘The Orbital Perspective’ tells that, by working together, we can improve things both off and on the earth. By using examples of highly successful collaboration between, shall we say ‘competitors’, Garan explains how better progress can be made towards a shared goal. The international space programme exists because the many partners recognised, understood and accepted their cultural differences, learned to trust each other and pooled their individual expertise to run, arguably, the biggest successful project of our generation. If we can cooperate in this way to achieve amazing feats off the planet, why can’t we do it ON earth too? It’s a simple message, but sometimes we don’t see the obvious when it’s right in front of us. Every astronaut mentions how beautiful and fragile our earth looks from space. How there are no visible borders. How small and isolated we really are. Garan wants us all to think of it this way and outlines ideas to make a difference. OK, so we’re not going to change the ways of the world overnight but, if everyone who reads this book - and I’m sure millions will - passes on the message, our earth WILL become a better place for it. And I will never again listen to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ in the same way!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An Astronaut’s Epiphany & His Call For Global Action  Last week Astronaut Ron Garan’s evocative new book, “The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles,” hit the book shelves, and is one of the fastest moving books from a breakout author. Most of us have not taken the time out to contemplate, and marvel, at the accomplishment of the International Space Station (ISS), which has been continuously occupied by humanity for over 14 years and has traveled over a billion and a half miles around the earth. The central themes of Astronaut Garan’s book are more humanistic and more poetic themes than what we normally associate with the space program.  Garan writes, “And in that moment, I was hit with the realization that this delicate layer of atmosphere is all that protects every living thing on Earth from perishing in the harshness of space.”  Bravery & Epiphany Every meaningful journey requires degrees of faith, bravery and commitment.  Garan captures that initial moment of danger, “I lay on my back, surprised at how calm and focused I felt, strapped to four and a half million pounds of explosives.” In the public mind NASA’s activities in space now seem routine, almost sterile. Perhaps the most extraordinary demonstration of calmness in the face of danger is when Garan performed the so called “windshield wiper” maneuver.  “...at the top of the arc, I found myself looking down at the enormous International Space Station, one hundred feet below me, against the backdrop of our indescribably beautiful planet 240 miles below. The sheer beauty of the scene took my breath away— but even more compelling than the beauty was the realization of the tremendous human achievement that the International Space Station represents. It is not only an amazing technical accomplishment— probably the most complex structure ever constructed— but also one of the most amazing examples of international cooperation. As I hung there with this massive box in my hands, looking down at the station against Earth, I marveled that fifteen nations, some that have not always been the best of friends, had found a way to set aside their differences and achieve something amazing in space. I wondered what the world would be like, and how many fewer problems we would all face, if we could figure out how to have the same level of cooperation and collaboration in our interactions on Earth’s surface.” Most journeys of significance culminate in lessons, realizations, and impacts that are entirely different from what we imagined, before we embarked. The boldness that comes from Garan’s two space missions, are his call to action for all of us here on planet earth.  We don’t all have to travel to space in order to benefit from the epiphany of, Garan, “Orbital Perspective.” But the real bravery is not just the call to action, but leadership through example.   Garan is the founder of the Manna Energy initiative which has launched efforts that have led to sustainable clean water solutions to literally millions of villagers in rural Africa. A few hundred years ago, we were certain that Earth was the center of the solar system.  We are now awed to understand that our Earth is a delicate side show in our universe. One of the most enduring and powerful outcomes of mankind's destiny to explore and live in space, is the awareness of the unique, wondrous beauty, and special responsibility that goes along with being born right here on Earth. “Orbital Perspective,” is really about translating a new perspective into action and into impact. It has now become possible to positively impact the lives of a billion people in 10 years.  This is not an easy challenge.  We need to be bold, and demonstrate some bravery, as we embark on this demanding imperative. We will need to challenge ourselves, imaginatively, creatively, technically and commercially so that we can create solutions in the developing world that are both scalable and sustainable.  Not a whole lot different from the critical utilities of those living on the  International Space Station, let’s start with the basic human needs of clean water and internet connectivity. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael Potter is on the Board of Trustees of the Manna Energy Foundation and the Founder of the Geeks Without Frontiers project.
Regis_Schilken More than 1 year ago
The Orbital Perspective is no ordinary book. It was penned by an author who has seen our planet from 240 miles in space. From a window of the ISS (International Space Station), to astronaut/author Ron Garan, earth looked like an enormous unfolded physical map as he sped across its vast oceans and continents, great mountains and plains. One can only imagine his feelings. Although the earth appeared to be a beautiful, quiet, peaceful place to live, in reality, Garan says he was fully aware of the troubles overwhelming its inhabitants: struggles for enough food, for clean air and water; battles over geographic boundaries; disagreements over religious beliefs; and above all, the on-going fight for personal freedom. The book, The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles, is the result of the profound influence of (1) his early training as an astronaut and (2) his shared life with foreign astronauts in the ISS. Both experiences shaped his thinking about ways to solve our planet's problems. Early in the book, he discusses how fellow astronauts of different tongues overcame language barriers. Yet, the major hurdle for all involved in building, and then living in the space station, was trust. According to author Garan, for years, the United States and Russia distrusted one another. A giant chasm existed between the democratic way of life and communist philosophy. Yet working together on a daily basis with foreign astronauts eventually toppled the wall of mistrust. Each country's leaders and scientists learned that if a habitable space station was ever to take place, trust was the critical attribute necessary. Collaborative effort to develop the myriad support systems necessary for life inside the ISS was the key to success, not political gesturing, not "ego and arrogance." The book is an outright call to action. It explains Garan's suggestions for building world trust or as he calls it, The Orbital Perspective, a world--WE. He outlines ways in which global teamwork can come about, not just get talked about. Personally, he hopes to establish The Star Harbor Space Training Academy that will provide training for astronauts from any country so that successful future private ventures in space become a reality. I liked The Orbital Perspective because it changed my thinking. It motivated me to incorporate collaborative thinking into my own daily life. It is easy to imagine what could happen if politicians and preachers and presidents started to view humanity through orbital perspective lenses rather than just my country, my citizens, my achievements. This book is a definite message of hope. It is a book and a time for readers to bring about change! In the end, we are one, a species with the unique capability of preserving ourselves and our planet for as long as possible. Garan's idea of acting and thinking--WE--will do it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you could journey into orbit and look upon humanity's entire sphere of existence, how would your mindset about life on Earth be altered? When Astronaut Ron Garan embarked on his second mission to ISS in 2011, he succeeded in taking a great many people with him by elevating them from being mere spectators to becoming active participants. To me, the impact of this outreach was orders of magnitude greater than anything that had gone before and when I heard about this book, it quickly became clear that its content would be hugely important to anyone wanting to make a positive impact on the world. The book is, at its heart, a call to action: It challenges the reader to find ways of using the principles it expounds and take collaborative action toward addressing significant challenges facing our global society. Supporting this call to action is a message of hope: The book threads together a rich tapestry of insights gleaned from exposure to some of the most remarkable events of our age. The greatest feats of international cooperation aptly serve as examples of the potential for humanity's new-found ability to solve many of the world's most pressing challenges. The book illustrates the challenges faced by early Cosmonauts, Astronauts, Roscosmos & NASA staff in working together and how they managed to overcome issues that threatened to derail their collaborative efforts. The reader is brought forward to 2008 by which time US / Russian collaboration in space exploration had blossomed into the fifteen-nation ISS partnership and follows the author's journey into orbit. Beginning with the visceral experience of being launched into space aboard STS-124, this enthralling account highlights several moments of reflection that punctuate the demanding work schedule: When seen through the eyes of a humanitarian, the sublime beauty of our Planet belies the difficulties that many of its inhabitants face. At several points, the author is struck by the sobering juxtaposition between the tranquil beauty of our Planet and the harsh discord that exists between many of its peoples. Although this dichotomy is rarely visible from low earth orbit, one such instance is the India-Pakistan border - floodlit at night and visible from orbit - standing as a pertinent symbol of the dire need to focus on global collaboration and find ways to put disagreements aside. To better communicate, support and care for each other. Readers are shown that this mindset is a natural consequence of adopting an Orbital Perspective - engendering respect, compassion, elevated empathy, creativity, a sense of gratitude, of interconnectedness, of unity among crewmates aboard Spaceship Earth. Most significantly, readers are reminded that they don't need to have been in orbit to be able to integrate an Orbital Perspective into their goals and lives. This book proves by example that individuals can have a significant positive impact if their effort is scalable and that they collaborate well - initiatives that start as small-scale collaborative efforts can grow, giving rise to exponentially positive impact which can lead to significant progress being made. I'm mindful of the adage that reminds us 'When a wise man points to the sky, it would be foolish to only look at the finger'. Just as when reading this book, it is important to remember that it resolutely points toward a far better future for the human family and our Planet. We have merely to follow the trajectory it defines. - C.A.V.
Fezman92 More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing book on how we can change the world around us by simply working together. Ron Garan takes us on a well written journey on how “we is the key” through the “Orbital Perspective”. The Orbital Perspective is the view that by working together, we can overcome obstacles that we couldn't do alone. Using the International Space Station as a primary example of the Orbital Perspective, we see how collaboration works. It took a total of 15 countries, all with multiple cultural differences to collaborate to build the largest space stations, which improves our lives every day.  One of the sections of this book that stands out to me the most is a photo of the Indian-Pakistan border from space. It is a massive stretch of light that shows how divided we can be and it is disturbing that we can create physical barriers that large in this day and age. It shows that barriers that shouldn't exist do exist because we put our own interests first, even if they are harming in the long run.  We are a global community, living in what Ron calls a “Fragile Oasis”. Humanity is now connected in ways never before, yet we don’t use the global connections to collaborate to make sure our Fragile Oasis doesn't fall apart. Ron shows us how we can use those connections to do just that, to work together to help others. In short, this book shows us that if humanity wants to improve, to make the world a better place, we have to work together because together we can achieve anything.
KellySWestchester More than 1 year ago
Ron Garan’s The Orbital Perspective is not just for space enthusiasts. It is for leaders, for dreamers, for innovators and for those searching for ways to have a positive impact in our world. As I read through the book, I found myself nodding in constant agreement. I couldn’t help but beam with enthusiasm, knowing that there are others who shared the same hopeful aspirations for society, and who believe that we can and must do better for future generations. It is our responsibility to dream bigger, to challenge the status quo and to nurture empathy in ourselves as well as others. I finally have a name for the view that I have always had of our world: Orbital Perspective!  Even better than having a name to call this way of thought, is having the ability to share with others how they too can switch gears to obtain this profound perspective. This book offers its readers insight on how to achieve an Orbital Perspective without ever leaving the earth. Ron Garan’s book relays a message of hOPe, and that is a message well worth sharing.
SaraJC More than 1 year ago
Having a growing fascination with space, dating back to the first ever shuttle launch, I found astronaut Ron Garan’s firsthand accounts of his missions into space truly insightful.  But I discovered this book is much more than an astronaut’s memoirs. It is a call to action. His views of Earth from 240 miles above, led Garan to see the world as a whole, without the dividing lines of nations, peoples or religions. Yet he also knew at ground level, deep conflicts and poverty exist.He saw the need for global collaboration, rather than division. The complex emotions he felt, gave him, what he describes as, “The Orbital Perspective”. This has led him to reject our planet’s current status quo, and embark on a quest to help eliminate suffering and conflict.Garan’s future hopes for the planet are not unfounded. In the book, he reflects on examples of successful collaboration. One of these showed how nations joined together to build the most complex structure ever built, the International Space Station (ISS), previously unthinkable against the backdrop of the Cold War.Garan makes it clear that it’s not a prerequisite to travel into space to gain an Orbital Perspective. He says it is gained from an acknowledgment that we are all travelling together on our fragile planet. An Orbital Perspective should lead us to empathize with our fellow human beings, no matter what race or religionGaran’s call to action is to share the Orbital Perspective and spread the message of cooperation around the world. He hopes individuals and organisations will work together to find long-term sustainable solutions to help improve life on Earth for the whole of global society.The message from this book is profound and inspiring: “Nothing is impossible.” #TheKeyIsWe
BlancaE More than 1 year ago
This story is a fascinating look at the barriers faced today as we all try and fail at solving the world’s biggest problems - clean water for all, creating self-sustaining communities, eradicating poverty. Ron takes us through the successful launch of the International Space Shuttle (ISS), a collaboration of 15 countries across the world and shares his viewpoint on why it worked. His experiences at, and incredible views from, the ISS, help him develop a shift in mind-set, a realization that nothing is impossible. What happens once we realize that as human beings “our sphere of influence is in fact global”? That is, “the orbital perspective”. The Orbital Perspective leaves you wondering, "What am I willing to sacrifice the next time I'm faced with a decision that offers the opportunity to make life better for the many as opposed to myself, my family, my nation...?" If we believe, as Ron does, that nations are not equipped to make this sacrifice, then his belief that a collection of individuals is more likely than "a collection of nations to make real progress toward solving our biggest challenges" is a wake up call to all of us whose efforts and intents are to make life better for others. Garan succeeds at conveying the image of the world as a fragile oasis. He includes practical ideas about collaborating and co-laboring globally, using social media to expand efforts. He also has some interesting tidbits about recent disruptions to traditional services: DuoLingo, Uber, and AirBnB all get mentions in the book.  How do we find the balance between making a living, living to work, and demonstrating social responsibility to our fragile oasis? You may find the inspiration you need in this book. The Orbital Perspective is Ron Garan's call to us with concrete examples of "democracy in action" showcasing ordinary citizens with passion and talent pushing the limits of their creativity with others, in a shared global space, to solve Earth's problems.  I highly recommend reading this book and delving deeper into the work that Garan and others are involved with and if you can, try it from the comfort of a window seat, 36K miles up, with a view of the sun setting on the horizon. It is nothing short of spectacular.
LiamK More than 1 year ago
Is it really possible to learn how to make a difference in the world by reading a book by an Astronaut? That was a question I had before reading a pre-release copy of "Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles" I had met with the author Ron Garan on several occasions over the past few years and heard the story of how his time in space provided an existential transformation about what it means to be human. In Ron's case (like many - but not all astronauts) that was the catalyst that propelled him to a life now which is committed to personally impacting the quality of life for all of humanity. This is evidenced through the many projects he has been directly involved with. I have to admit however to having some pre-conceptions about what the book would actually be about - and what I would get from it. I was expecting the story of an "existential awakening" from being exposed to views of the earth by being IN SPACE. I was expecting the tales of international collaboration (specifically US/Russian) that made the building of the ISS possible. What I had not quite expected was the bottom line. The bottom line is that Ron is saying the KEY to making a difference is never about governments. In the end it's not even about Institutions (e.g. NASA / Roscosmos). It's never about "This organization" or "That organization". In the end it is about ordinary people who through whatever means manage to lift their views of what is possible to an "Orbital Perspective". Out of that level of "Elevated Empathy" a new future becomes possible that disregards the short term gains that might otherwise be in the way of a sustainable solution to a critical issue in the world. Who are these ordinary people? You and Me. #TheKeyIsWe Read the book for the full scoop. I hope you too can become present to what's possible if we all raise ourselves up to the level of an "Orbital Perspective" and tackled our issues from that view.
LavanyaK More than 1 year ago
"A collection of individuals is more likely than a collection of nations to make real progress toward solving our biggest challenges." Astronaut Ron Garan's book, The Orbital Perspective is truly a beacon of hope in an otherwise challenging world. The message is clear: in order to ensure our survival, we must collaborate with one another and join hands across states, nations and continents to help solve the world's most pressing issues. We are one. We are interconnected. We are capable of rising above borders and across seas. We NEED to collaborate. Humanity has had great success in technology and in medicine. So why are we unable to eradicate conditions such as poverty, war and hunger that continue to ravage our planet? In this book, Ron Garan acknowledges the enormity of the task, yet beautifully explains why it shouldn't be overwhelming or unimaginable to improve these conditions. He presents lessons learned from the construction of the International Space Station and applies them to current issues that we face on Earth. Ron has flown in space twice and spent over five months orbiting our Fragile Oasis. These experiences have given him a unique outlook, aptly termed an orbital persepective. He explains how the orbital perspective isn't merely a unique view of the Earth from space, but that it is a call to action. It is the ability to zoom out, consider all the ways in which we are interconnected on Earth; it is the ability to have an elevated empathy for our fellow humans and to come together in such a way that we better the lives of all of humanity. In this book, Ron explains how a worm's-eye view of an issue, coupled with an orbital perspective is key to ensure success. My biggest takeaway from this book was that we CAN change the world by working WITH each other. We don't necessarily need to look to governments or to major bureaucratic organizations. We need to have the willingness to shed egos, the desire to place global priorities above our personal wishes, and the ability to expand our web of trust to our fellow humans so that true progress can take place. Ron's words are thought-provoking and insightful. It is evident that writing this book has been a labour of love for him. I can truly say that The Orbital Perspective has given me a restless energy: it has enriched my knowledge, but more so, it has made me want to find ways in which I can make a difference in this world and uplift humankind. As Ron eloquently puts it, "It doesn't require going into space to realize that we are all living on a precious, fragile planet, that we are all in this together, and that together we have a great number of challenges to overcome." The Orbital Perspective is a must-read for everyone who is interested in leaving this planet a better place than one into which they entered. It is an engaging read that will prompt you to take action. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to extending my hand to Ron and the rest of the OP Crew as we look towards ensuring a better future for our co-passengers on spaceship Earth. #TheKeyIsWe
Freann More than 1 year ago
Be prepared to see the world differently, and to feel compelled to change it I have been fascinated with space exploration and the universe for quite some time, but I am by no means a specialist when it comes to the subject. When I learned that Ron Garan, an astronaut who spent 178 days on the International Space Station (ISS), was releasing a book, I jumped on the occasion to read it. I am more than happy to have done so. The message conveyed in The Orbital Perspective resonated with me more than I could have imagined. I can honestly say that it changed my perspective of the world and gave me hope -- hope that stayed present once the last page was turned, hope that made me reevaluate a part of my existence, but most importantly, hope that motivated me to get out there and do something for the greater good. The book is written in a clear and concise language, which makes it accessible to everyone regardless of background, education or interests. It is also written very humbly. The author does not pretend to have all the answers. You can tell that he really cares about his fellow humans; he has faith in humanity and believes that with global cooperation/collaboration, elevated empathy and a few other ingredients, we can make our fragile oasis a better place for each and for all. Mr Garan gives many interesting examples of successful collaboration stories over the years  (Russia and the United States in space during the cold era; the Chilean miners’ rescue, and numerous other mass collaboration projects) to illustrate how powerful each and every single one of us can be if we rally our efforts. The key really is we.