Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc./NASA
The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles by Ron Garan
Image: Ron Garan floating in the Internationa
An Awe-Inspiring Space Station Odyssey Launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-21 space vehicle on April 4, 2011, NASA astronaut Ron Garan was a part of the Expedition 27/28 crew. He remained in orbit for over five months, landing in Kazakhstan on Sept. 16. During his stay, Garan kept the world updated with a constant stream of photographs from space, capturing everything from aurorae, wildfires, hurricanes and, remarkably, a meteor. This slide show is devoted to a small selection of some of his best pictures. The entire collection can be browsed on Garan's TwitPic stream. Before leaving orbit, Garan posted a blog on the "Fragile Oasis" website about his inspiring space station odyssey. Here's some excerpts from what he had to say.
The Cupola "I've been told that when Sasha Samokutyaev, Andrey Borisenko and I land later today, we will have spent 164 days in space (162 on the International Space Station), made 2,624 orbits of the Earth, and will have flown 65,340,224 miles (but who's counting?)," Garan said. "After all this time in space, separated from the Earth, I have come to know a new existence up here. An existence that is without many of the sights, sounds, smells and feel of life on Earth, but an existence with its own share of special defining qualities." Shown here, Garan is photographed in the space station's cupola, looking down on the coast of Australia. The next day, he returned to Earth.
Aurora As energetic particles from the sun impact the upper atmosphere of Earth, a beautiful light show erupts. As solar activity was pretty high during Garan's tour of duty, he had numerous opportunities to photograph the majestic and dynamic aurora. Shown here, the green auroral light (generated by excited oxygen molecules) snakes over our planet with the constellation of Orion hanging overhead.
Irene As Hurricane Irene barreled toward the East Coast of the U.S. in August, Garan and his crewmates had the best perspective on the sheer size of the storm. Shown here, on Aug. 27, Irene had just made landfall.
Eye of Katia As hurricane season marched on, another hurricane threatened the U.S. Fortunately, Hurricane Katia proved to be less of a threat than Irene. Garan captured this detailed photograph of Katia's eye on Sept. 5 as he flew overhead. The hurricane was passing through the Caribbean, near Puerto Rico.
Texas Wildfires It's not only natural disasters spawned by hurricanes that are obvious from space. As the space station orbited over the drought-ridden state of Texas, a number of wildfires are obvious, belching smoke high into the atmosphere.
Sunglint "I will miss watching the Earth transform from day into night and night into day sixteen times a day," said Garan. The space station is treated to 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets per day, so there are endless opportunities to see how the sun transforms the land and ocean below. Shown here, sunlight bounces off the waters surrounding Newfoundland on Aug. 27.
A Meteor! In Space! "I will miss watching meteors streak across our atmosphere below us, the rapid fire paparazzi flashbulbs of lightening storms at night, and flying so close to dancing curtains of auroras that you feel like you could reach out and touch them," he said. In this impressive (and now famous) photograph, Garan's photography skills came into play, capturing a meteor during the Perseid Meteor Shower in mid-August.
Night Lights As the space station passes over the night-side of Earth, human activity is traced with light. Seen here, Garan managed to photograph the River Nile delta in Egypt...
Icebergs! An iceberg floats off Petty Harbour (Newfoundland) in the Labrador Sea. "It's bigger than my hometown of Yonkers, NY," Garan remarked.
Sunrise "I will miss looking at our beautiful planet and the grandeur of our universe from this vantage point," said Garan.
Sunset... and Moonset? Setting almost simultaneously, the sun disappears over the horizon, followed closely by a crescent moon.
The Shuttle During Space Shuttle Atlantis' (and Shuttle Program's) final mission, Garan snapped the orbiter as it approached for docking on July 10, 2011. The shuttle's cargo bay doors are open, showing the cylindrical Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module used to resupply the space station. Caribbean islands form the backdrop.
Find out what went on during the shuttle's final mission to the International Space Station in our special photographic tour.
If you’re anything like me, you get a lot of your news online through various news and social media sources (especially Discovery News!). This is great, as it puts the most up-to-date information in front of you instantly. But sometimes it’s nice to sit down and open up a real live book to explore a topic much more intimately than you normally could online.
As a member of the “Orbital Perspective Release Crew,” I recently had the opportunity to do precisely that with a free 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. 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 actual living conditions in many places around the world are belied by that beauty.
Having seen our world firsthand from both viewpoints, Ron has become aware of the paradox but doesn’t believe 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 your typical “space book.” The Orbital Perspective won’t make you gasp in wonder at how the continents look from low-Earth orbit or dazzle you with glossy photographs of stars, aurorae, the Milky Way or massive spacecraft roaring into the sky. That’s not what it’s about. Yes, Ron has seen and been a part of all that, and yes, he does provide fascinating insight into the space program — particularly the collaboration between the U.S. and Russia to develop and construct the ISS. But The Orbital Perspective is much more about the effort itself than it is about 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 true collaboration that 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) and especially those who find themselves in roles that require bringing people together to solve a problem, whether within their own organization or halfway around the world. Working in space and working on Earth are surprisingly similar (besides that pesky gravity bit) if just in that both require individuals with specialized skill sets cooperating together to achieve a common goal. Ron has been one of those individuals many times, and it’s a privilege to gain some of his personal insight.
Whether you’re just a fan of spaceflight or are personally involved in global outreach or professional development of any kind, The Orbital Perspective will help you see your world — our world — in a whole new light. As Ron reminds us, #TheKeyIsWe.
“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 the 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