- Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles
"You don't need to be an astronaut to have the orbital perspective..."
by Astronaut Ron Garan
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Enhanced edition includes over an hour of video: footage of astronaut Ron Garan's life on the International Space Station, and vignettes of inspiring projects on Earth of the orbital perspective in action
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.
Garan's message of elevated empathy is an inspiration to all who seek a better world.
Via Amazon / The #1 New Release in Astrophysics & Space Science
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.
"Ron Garan's 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."
“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
Reader Reviews of The Orbital Perspective
(as of 2015)
This book is an amazing book on how we can change the world around us ...
By Fezman92 on February 3, 2015
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.
A must-read for team leaders, entrepreneurs, humanitarians (and of course, space fans!)
By JP Majoron February 3, 2015
I'll begin by saying what this book is not. This is not a "space book." It is not a coffee-table collection of glossy photos taken from low-Earth orbit, nor is it a breathless account of what it feels like to ride a rocket into space or live and work for months on end in weightlessness. While the author Ron Garan has indeed experienced all of these things and more during his time as a NASA astronaut, what he shares in The Orbital Perspective is how our global society can improve the future of everyone on the planet if we could just learn to work together and see the big picture... not unlike the privileged view that astronauts get every hour of every day in orbit.
The collaborative process has been of utmost importance to the success of our nation's space program, whether it be working between astronauts in space and their ground crew or cooperation between entire nations to develop a permanent Space Station. These same collaborative skills could be used in many endeavors, anywhere that teams of people must work together to achieve a common goal. Entrepreneurs, policymakers, team leaders and members, humanitarians, visionaries of all kinds... this book is for each and all of them. Because after all, this planet we call home - our Fragile Oasis - it really is just one world and we're all along for the ride.
So no, this is not a space book. This is a life book, about how we can make lives better around the world with the lessons we've learned by going to space.
As Ron reminds us, #TheKeyIsWe.
Think differently about Earth - gain an Orbital Perspective
By vdrummeron February 2, 2015
An illuminating and informative read, on a topic very close to my heart.
Spending time in space (189 days in the author’s case), orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, causes deep and profound shifts in a person’s perception of our planet; this was especially true for Ron Garan.
Orbital Perspective begins with Looking Skyward:
The first of three sections contains enlightening aspects of how the USSR-Russia and USA overcame deep hostilities to achieve highly successful partnerships in space-related projects, starting with Apollo-Soyuz, then Shuttle-Mir, and finally the grand achievement of the International Space Station. By using similar, smaller steps, it’s possible that current deeply-rooted global problems can be overcome.
The book continues with Looking Earthward and Looking Forward:
Frank White’s brilliant book “The Overview Effect” (there’s a great summary video here: (http://vimeo.com/55073825) explains the change in thinking, a cognitive shift, that takes place when seeing the Earth from space. Orbital Perspective derives from that and is a call to action for worldwide collaboration (particularly among development workers) and new longer-term perceptions of global problems.
Garan advocates the benefits of and need for collaborating effectively on a global scale, using examples such as Vision Zero, which explores ways to eliminate traffic accidents through vehicle sensing and smart roadways, and the Chilean mine rescue, the success of which was aided by a shift from short-term to long-term thinking by international participants.
Earth is our one and only ride through space and time; we’d have a better chance at a better future by embracing the forward-looking, long term thinking outlined in this book.
Be prepared to see the world differently, and to feel compelled to change it!
By Annie on February 2, 2015
I have been fascinated with space exploration 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 it conveys 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, knowledge or interests. It is also written very humbly. The author does not pretend to have all the answers, nor does he make the reader feel inferior in any way. 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.
A beautiful message well worth sharing
By kelly schwarkon February 2, 2015
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 Earth. Ron Garan’s book relays a message of hOPe, and that is a message well worth sharing.
The Orbital Perspective - a Call to Action
By Eico Neumannon February 2, 2015
Ron Garan's book is nothing short of an advisory for life.
It should be mandatory for political decision makers and faculties teaching the leaders and strategists of tomorrow around the world.
While aiming at solving the big problems we as the 7 billion crew of spaceship Earth face, it enables through carefully chosen examples to zoom in into your own direct cosmos of daily decisions.
And while you enjoy the beautiful pictures of his 71-million mile journey at the end of the book, if you not already inherit it, you will have the Orbital Perspective and you will see: "There are more things that we share in common than things that separate us. We may be born in different countries, belong to different generations, speak different languages, but we are one species, with the same hopes and dreams for our children, for our communities, and for our planet."
Learn how you can impact the world by gaining an “Orbital Perspective”
By William J Kennedy on February 2, 2015
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
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.
A truly inspiring and insightful read
By Sara J Chardinon February 2, 2015
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 traveling together on our fragile planet. An Orbital Perspective should lead us to empathize with our fellow human beings, no matter what race or religion.
The astronaut'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
Lessons to help shift mindsets to solve the world's biggest problems
By Blanca Eon February 2, 2015
Ron Garan, author of The Orbital Perspective, reminds us that life begins at the end of our comfort zone. His story takes us through his life as an American astronaut, as a humanitarian through his work with the Manna Energy Foundation and Engineers Without Borders, and includes stories of others’ work that have inspired him. It is the historical account, however, of the Russian-US collaboration to save the space program, that helps to highlight that relationships matter and that in order to make something great happen, you must establish trust.
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 mindset, 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.
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- Excerpt - The Orbital Perspective
We all have moments like this in our lives, where something shifts, clicks into place. For me it was in June 2008, when I clamped my feet to the end of the robotic Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS) and was flown through a maneuver that we called the Windshield Wiper, which took me in a long arc above the space station and back. As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth -- this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space -- a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction. In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn't help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don't have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.
Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective -- something I've come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible. It is possible to have peace in the world, to end wars, violence, and terrorism, but this can be done only once poverty is wiped from the face of the earth. And the good news is that it is also possible to lift the entire population of the world out of destitute poverty.
I don't claim to have a magic solution to all of our problems. Poverty and conflict are very complex issues, with numerous complicating factors, and I don't want to oversimplify these problems. But if we can address these issues correctly, if we can figure out ways to work together, it can propel us on a path to a more peaceful, safe, and prosperous world. One step in that unified direction is to put a greater emphasis on doing things that take a long-term focus and are financially sustainable, as well as things that make use of the power of the engines of enterprise.
I returned to Earth after that first space mission with a call to action. I could no longer accept the status quo on our planet. We have within our grasp the resources and technology necessary to solve many, if not all, of the problems facing our planet -- and yet we don't.
I continued to ponder this during my second journey to space, which began in April 2011. I spent half of 2011 living and working aboard the International Space Station, and I spent most of any available free time I had with my face plastered to a window, gazing back at Earth. As I watched our beautiful planet, I wondered what the world would be like in the next fifty years, and I pondered a question that gnawed at me constantly: If we have the resources and the technology to solve the challenges we face, why do they still persist?
Up there, hovering above Earth with my orbital perspective, I came to believe that the problem lies primarily in our inability to collaborate effectively on a global scale. There are millions of organizations around the world working to improve life on Earth, but for the most part these organizations are not engaged in a unified, coordinated effort. There is a great deal of duplication of effort, loss of efficiency, and unfortunately, in many cases, destructive competition that does not lead to better products or services but only to substandard products and services, rising prices, and other detriments.
We already possess all the technology we need to enable truly consistent, world-changing global collaboration. Our real challenge lies in demonstrating how vital and valuable such collaboration is, despite the real and perceived risks. Open collaborations make solutions more effective and efficient through the pooling of resources and information. Working together multiplies cost-effectiveness while reducing duplication of effort. It is the only real way to enable economies of scale that can scale innovative solutions. Perhaps most importantly, open collaboration encourages greater accountability, which in turn fosters trust. We are all in this together, so we should share common goals, and the only way we are going to overcome the challenges facing our world is by working together.
An effective collaboration mechanism will pair critical challenges with vital solutions, bringing together unique pieces of the puzzle and enabling us all to learn from each other's successes and failures, making organizations' technologies and approaches considerably more effective than they would be otherwise. Since multiple organizations are looking to develop tools to enable collaboration, it is critical to unify those efforts.
As I looked back at our Earth from the orbital perspective, I saw a world where natural and human-defined boundaries shrank. I saw a world becoming more and more interconnected and collaborative -- a world where the exponential increase in technology is making the "impossible" possible on a daily basis. Thinking about the next fifty years, I imagined a world where people and organizations set aside their differences and their destructive competitive inclinations -- such as striving to maximize economic growth at all cost, or pillaging society for the personal gain of a few -- and instead work together toward common goals. After all, we are all riding through the universe together on this spaceship we call Earth. We are all interconnected, we are all in this together, and we are all family.
I imagined a world where open, transparent collaborations become the engines that fuel tremendous economic growth and help us obliterate many of the problems facing our planet. I imagined that individuals and organizations that currently engage in destructive competition, secretive dealings, or corruption would begin to see themselves being left behind and would be compelled to adapt, evolve, and take on a much more effective collaborative focus in order to keep up with the economic growth that collaboration would bring. I imagined a world where we are all unified in the belief that by working together we can accomplish anything.
For almost all of human history, the vast majority of people believed that it was impossible to fly to the moon -- simply because it had never been done before. Human ingenuity and human determination proved that it was possible. Today, the majority of people believe that it is impossible to solve many of the world's problems -- that it is impossible, for instance, to lift the entire global population out of poverty. But if we adopt the same collaborative mind-set and practices that got us to the moon and back, and that built the International Space Station, we can alleviate poverty -- and do much more.
In the foreword to the latest edition of Frank White’s The Overview Effect, former astronaut Ron Garan writes about his experiences in space, including the change in perception that he and many other space travelers experience when seeing the Earth from space (see “Review: The Overview Effect”, The Space Review, January 19, 2015). In it, he tried to differentiate between that change in perception — the Overview Effect — with what he called the “Orbital Perspective.”
“I have come to believe that if the Overview Effect is a change in perception that you get from physically seeing the Earth from space and in space, the Orbital Perspective derives from that experience and drives what you do with it...”
- Astronaut Piers Sellers, a dual British-US citizen, made a point of using his experiences as an astronaut to further planetary awareness of climate issues. As a climate scientist and for many years director of NASA's Goddard Earth Science division, he was surprised to see how thin the atmosphere was. “That really brought home to me how easily mankind can affect its own environment. The stuff we breathe, there’s not much of it. It’s a very thin atmosphere. We better pay attention.”
- "As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator."
- "From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future."
Looking over Piers' right shoulder, in the near distance, together we can see the "Thin Blue" layer surrounding Earth, our planet home