The Orbital Perspective | Ron Garan

February 3, 2015 8:00 PM

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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 impossi...

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