One Astronaut's Wish for the Holidays

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From orbit, the Earth is so beautiful. But for many who live on our planet, life is a terrible struggle with hunger, thirst, and disease.

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When we look at the Earth from space we are faced with a sobering contradiction. On the one hand, we see the indescribable beauty of the planet we have been given. On the other hand, we know that millions of people on it do not have access to clean water, go to bed hungry at night, and die from preventable and curable diseases.

It is truly moving to look at the Earth from space. And when we do, we look down from our "orbital perspective" and realize that we are all riding through the universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family. 

We have the resources and technology to overcome almost all of the challenges we face. For thousands of years people believed that it was impossible to fly to the moon -- because it had never been done before. Human ingenuity and determination proved that it was possible. 

Today many people believe that it is impossible to solve most of the problems of the world including poverty. But our accomplishment of sending humans to the moon and returning them safely should caution us to doubt our beliefs about what is and isn't possible. Eradicating poverty is possible. We are only limited by the size of our imagination and our will to act.

The good news is there are over 20 million organizations around the world working to improve life on our planet. The bad news is these organization are not engaged in a unified, coordinated effort. There is a great deal of duplicated work, lost efficiency, and a reduction in the positive impact that these organizations could otherwise make.

We need an effective mechanism for people and organizations to collaborate in order to solve the challenges facing our world.

Inspired by the collaboration that made the International Space Station possible, we have formed The Collaboration Project to create a mechanism to affect real change. This project is joining with groups ranging from Random Hacks of Kindness to USAID to build a collaborative platform and bring together organizations that are working on problems around the globe. The ultimate goal is to end that sobering contradiction that we see when we look at the Earth from orbit, and make our planet a place that is not only beautiful from above, but a place where life is beautiful for all.


Image: NASA.

This post was adapted from an essay that appeared earlier on open.nasa.gov.

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Ron Garan is a NASA astronaut. He recently returned from the International Space Station.

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