The Orbital Perspective – a call to action


Have you ever thought, the world needs to pull together and see the overall picture to tackle the problems of our time?

Well, then you already have it, the Orbital Perspective. But don’t stop reading now, because while you have it, there are lots and lots of people out there, that do not have it and keep falling back into their own cosmos of problems and boundaries in which they do good for sure, but are not solving the problems on the long run. Not even within the realms of their thinking.

So what can you do? Easy: Spread the word, get people involved and learn more about this “Orbital Perspective”. As they say, the voyage of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

This old proverb is what struck me several times in my comfort zone while reading Ron Garan’s first book about how we need to pull ourselves together in this interconnected society and how we need to work together on the challenges we face on Earth. I have been given a copy of the book in advance and by reading these marvelous examples of people using their skills and social entrepreneurship to do something, to not just wait for the problems to vanish, I couldn’t help but feel a little lost and insignificant. But at the same time, Ron made me feel needed and sparked the desire to do something, regardless of how tiny I am in this 7 billion people Spaceship we call Earth. And what if writing these lines in my lonely blog and telling you that by spreading the Orbital Perspective, I am taking this first step to do good and to help eradicate poverty. What if you, by taking your first step find two people that share the same common goal? Well then we have already quadrupled or done even better.

But what exactly is this Orbital Perspective? To me, it is the call to overcome our differences and open up our minds for different ideas, different approaches and to take in various views from different perspectives to reach a solution for any of the problems we face and especially those that threaten our existence on this Fragile Oasis, our planet.

In his book Ron postulates, that you do not have to be in orbit to experience this unique perspective and I very much relate to it – while certainly wanting to challenge my belief by going into Space. But that’s different story. In fact, he outlines various projects that needed an elevated view to succeed, like the Soyuz-Apollo or Shuttle-Mir programs and ultimately the construction of the ISS. Especially the latter would have been doomed if it wasn’t for the mutual trust and the will to build the station when the tragic loss of Columbia grounded the shuttle fleet. The US wasn’t able to perform their part in the cooperation, but Russia stood to the project and ultimately together with their partners, they got by and finished the station.

But what has the ISS in common with the problems we face here on Earth. A lot if you ask me. Not only is the research conducted on board valuable beyond belief, the ISS in its entirety can serve as a framework and provide lessons learned in what this multinational collaboration to undertake the goliath task the construction of the station was.

Ron provides many more examples where an open environment and a collaborative effort can literally safe lives – anyone remember the stuck Chilean miners in 2010?

Some of his examples and thoughts on how to approach difficult situations have the capability to restore hope in humanity, a feeling that can easily get lost in the whirlpool of negative news and reports.

Still thinking of what the Orbital Perspective can provide for local challenges? Well, just zoom in to them and take the – how Ron Garan puts it – worms eye view. By providing clean water, sustainable energy or education to the poverty battered people around the globe, radicalization and spreading misled religious believes will be harder and I don’t have to tell you where this helps almost every worm eyes view anywhere in the world. If you had only the worm eye view, you might have fought the local group and it maybe even would have gotten better, but just until the next group moves in.

Sometimes the call for action and the unconditional believe to change the world the book tells seems naive, but I share this feeling of hope. We need to start somewhere to get there and if we don’t start, we won’t succeed.

Let me finish with one of my favorite quotes of the book:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my travels around the world, it’s that people are people. There are more things that we share in common than things that separate us. We may be born in differ- ent 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.”

If you allow me one wish: Please go out, call a friend (preferably a non space-related one) and tell him or her about this kind of thinking. Infect someone with this optimism and plant the flower of hope. Because, #TheKeyIsWe !

If you want to experience the call for action first hand, the book by Astronaut Ron Garan, “The Orbital Perspective” is released on the 2nd of February 2015 and is published by Berret-Koehler Publishers


Upon reading the book, I noticed that I have a tight relation to Ron Garan which I did not notice before (and he certainly doesn’t know of it either).

On the 31st of May 2008 I was standing on the Banana River in Florida watching my second Shuttle launch. I had only this single day, as I was to return to Germany the day after and lucky enough, the Shuttle launched and what I witnessed was STS-124, Ron Garan’s first flight.

A couple years later, I was among the lucky few and the only German to be chosen for the #NASAtweetup for the final Shuttle launch of STS-135. On the station at that time was… yes, Ron Garan and he was phoning down a couple of times to Beth Becks mobile and took the time to talk to a lot of us tweeps. I was too overwhelmed at the moment and a little intimidated by the setting to take the phone and talk to him at that time (a circumstance that I truly regret now), but what would I say to someone orbiting our planet that would not have sounded like a kiddo after his first visit to a candy store 🙂

Through #NASAtweetup (now #NASAsocial) and the European version, the #SpaceTweetup (now #SpaceSocial), Beth became a friend to my family and it was she who helped me reach out to an Astronaut, when a couple of friends and I prepared the very first SpaceUp in Europe to bring together enthusiasts and industry professionals to spread the word and collaborate on various topics. I like to believe we did our little share to infect others and help to spread this movement all over Europe (in reality, we probably were just the catalyst to make it happen). Oh, the Astronaut, who appeared via G+? Well it was Ron sharing his story and his other project, “Fragile Oasis”. I don’t know if he used the term “Orbital Perspective” back then, but it is exactly what I remember. Take the high vantage point, collaborate and spread the word.

Now selected for the Orbital Perspective launch crew, I met him again (online) and he still has this infectious optimism and a spreads the virus that wants you do more to change the world, if just a little bit and to be part of a global movement to change it completely.

Picture on top, copyright by The Orbital Perspective Crew