Learn How to See the Big Picture With “The Orbital Perspective”
If you’re anything like me you get a lot of your information online through various news and social media sources. This is great, as it puts the most up-to-date news in front of you instantly. But sometimes it’s nice to sit down and open up a book – yes, a real live book with pages you turn and non-clickable text (gasp!) – and explore a topic much more intimately than you normally could in a web article.
As a member of the “OP release crew” I recently had the opportunity to do precisely that with a pre-release copy of Ron Garan’s book The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles. A decorated fighter pilot, astronaut, and entrepreneur, Ron has logged 178 days in space and over 71 million miles in orbit (hence the title.) He is the founder of the nonprofit social enterprise incubator Manna Energy Foundation and is also the founder of Fragile Oasis, which uses the orbital perspective to inspire positive social and environmental action. During his time living and working in space over the course of two missions – shuttle mission STS-124 and Expedition 27/28 aboard the ISS – as well as participating in various humanitarian programs on Earth, Ron has developed a sense of acute awareness of the interconnectiveness of humanity, of how we really are “all in this together.” Unfortunately, regardless of how beautiful our planet looks from orbit there’s no denying that living conditions in many places around the world are belied by that beauty. Having seen the world first-hand from both viewpoints, Ron has become aware of the paradox but doesn’t feel that it has to be “just the way things are” – he believes we have the ability to change things on a global scale but only if we work together… only if we can achieve an orbital perspective.
This is not a typical “space book.” The Orbital Perspective is not intended to make you gasp in wonder at how the continents look from low-Earth orbit or dazzle you with glossy photographs of the aurora or impressive spacecraft roaring into the sky. Yes, Ron has seen and been a part of all that, and yes, he does give some very fascinating insight into the space program – particularly the collaboration with the Soviet Union and Russia to make the ISS a reality. But The Orbital Perspective is much more about the collaborative effort itself than it is about the Space Station or the Shuttle or what Earth looks like as it turns tirelessly below. Collaboration – in the literal sense of the word, laboring together – is what Ron focuses on above all else, because it is only through collaboration that truly amazing and world-changing things can be achieved.
The Orbital Perspective is a book for anyone who works with people (which is almost everyone who is employed in some fashion or another) and especially those who find themselves in roles that require bringing together teams to solve a problem, be it within their own organization or halfway around the world. Working in space and working on Earth are surprisingly similar (not taking that pesky gravity part into consideration) if just in that both require groups of individuals with specialized skill sets cooperating together to achieve a common goal. Ron has been one of those individuals many times, and I feel privileged to have been able to gain some of his personal insight.
I’m not the only one, though. Many other people (whom you may have heard of) also have great things to say about The Orbital Perspective:
“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
Whether you’re a fan of spaceflight, global outreach, or professional collaboration of any kind, The Orbital Perspective will help you see your world – our world – in a whole new light.
“We don’t have to be in orbit to have the orbital perspective. We just need to apply that perspective to our work here on this planet. And if we commit to working together, we won’t have to accept a status quo far beneath the potential of this beautiful world.”
– Ron Garan, NASA astronaut, humanitarian, and author
*I had a chance to speak with Ron briefly via cell phone as he passed over Kennedy Space Center aboard the ISS before the STS-135 launch on July 8, 2011, thanks to the organization of Beth Beck. Needless to say that was one of the highlights of that incredible day!