Today is Ron Garan’s last day in space. (on this mission, at least!) After more than 5 months on orbit, he will join Russian crewmates Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko as they undock from the station’s Poisk module to return to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft.
They are set to land in southern Kazakhstan very late tonight, after their return was delayed a week. (If you saw Ron’s video from last week, you’ll remember how he felt about that delay…)
I saw another of Ron’s videos this week, an AMAZING guided tour of the ISS. He recorded a talk for the TED Global 2011 event sharing the perspective he had on the earth from space and describing the wide range of scientific experiments that are run on the station during missions.
One of his personal objectives is to use the unique orbital perspective to put a focus on the challenges facing our planet. Ron has a strong belief in the ability of social entrepreneurship and appropriately targeted philanthropy to solve many of the problems we face here on earth.
That means you and me – and that means NASA, too.
Because of this conviction, Ron started Fragile Oasis, an interactive blog that grew into a larger community of shared projects… and shared vision. The corps of bloggernauts shares their experience on ISS and invites the public to share in their mission to improve and protect life on earth. Community members can nominate, follow the progress of, and vote for real projects making a difference in the areas of communication, community, education, energy, environment, food, health, peace, research, and water.
Space exploration has taught us this: we have one Earth, and we need to take care of it. We face the same issues around the world and 240 miles up — we need clean water, nutritious food, purified air, and healthy bodies, as well as means to generate and store power to sustain where we live and work. We need to work together peacefully across language and culture barriers with fair governance structures, and a means to promote knowledge through education and scientific inquiry. We have to make this work on the International Space Station - just like in diverse communities all around the globe.
I’ll close with Ron’s own words about why he started the community:
In June 2008, I had the privilege of flying on board the Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station, the most complex structure ever built. I was also privileged to conduct three spacewalks during the fourteen-day mission.
During the last one, with my feet anchored in clamps on the end of the space station’s robotic arm, I was swept in a big arc over the top of the space station and back.
At the top of the arc, I was 100 feet above the space station with the Earth 250 miles below.
It was absolutely incredible to see this enormous orbiting space station — the tremendous achievement of sixteen diverse nations working together on Earth to accomplish a goal in space.
Seeing humanity’s magnificent accomplishment against the backdrop of our indescribably beautiful Earth 250 miles below took my breath away. I wasn’t just looking down at the Earth. I was looking at a planet hanging in the blackness of space.
It was very moving to see the beauty of the planet we’ve been given. But as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us and has protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn’t help thinking of the inequity that exists.
I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflict, and poverty that exist.
The stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants reaffirmed the belief I share with so many. Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it.
Come learn, act, and make a difference.
Go here to see the Fragile Oasis photostream.
Go here to follow the Fragile Oasis bloggernauts on Twitter.
Go here to join the Fragile Oasis community.