Science AMA Series: I'm Ron Garan, Chief Pilot for World View Enterprises and former NASA pilot. I'm here to answer questions about how seeing Earth from space changes your perspective forever. AMA!

Abstract

Hi reddit!

World View is providing a new perspective of our planet and revolutionising access to space for communications technology, sensors and people. I believe that seeing the Earth from space changes the way we view humanity and our relationship with this planet; I call this 'The Orbital Perspective'.

As a NASA astronaut I travelled 71,075,867 miles in 2,842 orbits of our planet over 178 days. I flew on both the US Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz spacecraft and logged over 27 hours in the vacuum of space during four spacewalks.

I also participated in a record-setting exploration research mission held in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea laboratory and I am the author of 'The Orbital Perspective' – my book detailing the effects of seeing Earth from a new point of view.

I'll be talking about The Orbital Perspective and life in space at BBC Future's World Changing Ideas Summit on 15 November in Sydney.

I will be here to answer questions at 15:00pm EST, 20:00pm GMT. Ask me anything!

Hi Ron!

I have a question regarding how you handle conversations with flat-earthers. I have a friend that is constantly trying to convince those around him that the images that NASA "feeds us" are completely photoshopped and that footage from the ISS is faked with green screens, among other things.

It all makes my blood boil, but I'm wondering how you react when someone completely denies some of your life's work. Is it something that you feel is worth arguing over, or do you just shake your head and walk away? What are some tactics you'd use to get them to see the truth?

thesubmissivesiren

I've never met anyone who believes the Earth is flat. I imagine if I did they would discredit anything I said. My main argument would be that I orbited our planet 2,842 times over the course of 6 months and saw 16 sunrises and sunsets everyday. This only proves the Earth is not flat if you believe me. If you don't believe me it would be a waste of time to continue the conversation. I would wish them well in their 2-dimentional world and move on


Seeing the earth from space has been a dream of mine for a long time. I think it's amazing that you are working toward making that dream a possibility. Here are my questions:

1) The Stratollite can reach up to 46 km in altitude. How does a view from 46 km compare to what we see from ISS footage, for example (at ~ 400 km).

2) What will the economics of this look like in the short and medium term? How long until a World View flight is a viable alternative to a weekend trip for a typical middle class family?

3) Earth views from LEO (low earth orbit) like those obtainable from the ISS or a Stratollite are obviously different from those seen by lunar astronauts, where the full extent of the hemisphere fits in their field of view. Are there any plans (or dreams) of extending this program to more distant vantage points where the whole hemisphere is visible at once?

shmageggy

1) On the Worldview platform, as we gently ascend we will see the sky turn from blue to black, we will see how thin the atmosphere is, we will see the curvature of the Earth. We also plan on launching just before sunrise so we will initially see an incredibly beautiful sunrise that will turn into a star-rise as the Sun rises above the Earth's atmosphere. Seeing the Sun against a black background is a profound experience. 2) Our goal is to eventually make this trip more affordable (the present ticket price is $75K) We are working very hard to bring the price down but it's likely to actually go up initially. We are also looking for creative ways to grant trips to people who are making a difference in our world and people who can best share the experience with everyone else and motivate others to make a difference. To date it's been pilots, engineers and scientists flying to space. Imagine what will happen when we send poets, musicians and artists. 3) At the moment World View has no plans for flight in orbit or beyond orbit.


You spent six months on the ISS. I spend Thanksgiving with my family and things get tense. Do the astronauts ever get sick of each other in such close quarters? Any good stories about that?

JamesRenner

I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time with every person I've flown in space with. I think the fact that we are all there with the same goals and objectives on an important mission supersedes petty differences. Wouldn't it be nice if it were the same with all our fellow crewmates on Spaceship Earth?


I noticed that Kofi Annan commented on your book. Do you think that astronauts -- who all seem to be fundamentally transformed by their experience -- could serve as peace-brokers for the UN?

vilnius2013

Yes, we are forming a coalition of international astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts called Constellation. We plan on addressing the UN General Assembly next year with a message of hope and unity.


Hi Ron! Nice to have you here.

I´m in love with the concept of the 'The Orbital Perspective', but do you think this will last forever? If in the future space travel becomes a "day to day" thing, do you still think it would be that powerful?

Juandedeboca

I believe to some extent you are correct. I think one of the reasons why the view of Earth from space is so awe-inspiring is because it is so rare.  We have not yet gotten to the place where the view and experience are commonplace.  This thought dawned on me as I was jogging through a park recently.  As I was running through the beautiful setting and noticing the beauty of the trees, flowers and wildlife I was struck by the awe of the scene. The feeling resembled, to some extent, the awe I experienced in space. I believe the reason why the things around us do not usually fill us with that type of awe everyday is because we have learned to take them for granted.  Imagine if only 535 people in the history of humanity were able to see a flower. Shouldn’t they feel a responsibility to share that beauty somehow with the rest of humanity? Is there somehow some level of awe induced simply because of the uniqueness and rareness of the experience.  But just because an experience is rare that doesn’t make it intrinsically more special or more beautiful than a beautiful everyday experience.  We are surrounded by awe constantly. For me, being separated from the awe of the beauty of everyday life for a period of months at a time, allowed me to appreciate that beauty more when I returned. I predict that won't change when millions of people have the experience of going to space.


Thanks for doing this AMA!
1. Did you ever see anything in orbit that you cannot logically explain? (You know where I'm going with this one...) 2. What was it like readjusting to 1.0 G upon your return to the surface?

My_reddit_strawman

  1. No
  2. I learned that gravity sucks

Hello! my name is Reece. I'm a junior in high school it must be fate, but I am currently doing a five page paper on NASA for my government class. It would blow my teacher away if you could answer a question for me. That being said: what is the future of NASA in your opinion? Will they ever top their previous achievements?

Zombie_fett18

I can't answer what the future of NASA is. That depends on our national leadership. I can say though what I hope the future of NASA is. I hope that the next priority for NASA is to establish a transportation infrastructure to ensure routine flights to various locations in our solar system, starting with our closest neighbor, the Moon.


How do you see life after getting back? Seeing people go about their daily routines, with worries that are meaningless in the grand scope of things. The perspective of what's important in life must definitely change after such an experience.

narkosesbb

In some ways I feel like an alien. I have seen the truth of the world that we live in and for some people it seems improbable that I could ever make them see the truth. I think the late Edgar Mitchell may have said it best, “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”


Do you dream differently in space?

rezasaysnow

I don't think I dreamed any differently. Although once when I was in space I did dream I was falling. When I woke up I realized that I WAS falling.


What is your Weltanschauung and how does your company's name relate to that word?

UncivilizedEngie

That's a big question that took me almost 200 pages to explain in my book, The Orbital Perspective. In a nut shell, my message is that each and everyone of us is riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, we are all deeply interconnected and interdependent and we are all one human family. This is not a cliche' or a philosophy, this is the reality of the world that we live in, this is fact.


Are you aware of and have you used any of the recent generation of virtual realtiy hardware? (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive etc.) What are your thoughts on the possibility of recreating the orbital perspective in a virtual environment, for people who will never have the opportunity to go into orbit?

andygood

I have used the recent generation VR hardware but I have yet to see a really realistic recreation of the experience but I know we are moving in that direction.


Hi, I'm sure you get this a lot, but how can I, John Everyman, become an astronaut? I'm at community college right now studying robotics and engineering, and my current plan is to head to the Air Force academy for flight hours and further study. Is there a better path I should take? What about someone who already has a degree? What major should you choose for people not yet in college?

Rebreok

I don't think you should be making career and academic decisions with the sole motivation to maximize your chance of becoming an astronaut. I believe this for two reasons: 1. It is still a very very long shot and will you be happy with your career choices if you aren't able to become an astronaut. 2. If instead you find things you truly love to do and pursue those things you will naturally excel. What all astronauts have in coming is they have all excelled in their chosen field.


Ron, Here on Earth we have all kinds of videos of Unidentified flying objects from the ISS and many space missions. Would you elaborate on what you have seen?

Observation is still a part of the scientific process although it's not a data driven answer. Cheers,

olseadog

I never saw anything while I was in space that could not be explained and no, those explanations did not include alien spacecraft.


Mr. Ron Garan,

Goodness, it's amazing to have the opportunity to speak with such accomplished people of the world. Thank you for taking the time to listen and give value to our questions and thoughts.

As a high school science teacher in training, I'm worried about students not having the ability to use interactive technology in the classroom that can connect them with astronomy or cosmology and our "final frontier" so-to-speak. What resources are available for teachers that will help their students interact with the universe? Or, what would you recommend? What do you feel would have a deep, profound impact on students in regards to the orbital perspective? If you were a teacher, how would you connect with your students?

Also, will you sing me happy birthday for my 30th in February, please?

Forever indebted, Hurleyburger

HurleyBurger

NASA has great resources for classrooms. Here's one: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/programs/national/ercn/home/index.html

I don't think you'd want to hear me sing to you.


Thank you for your time. What do you see as the biggest hurdles yet to be overcome with respect to colonization?

kobullso

Before we can even think of colonizing other planets we need to learn how to control our own environment.


Hi Ron, I have 3 questions

  1. What are some of the technical challenges that you feel need to be addressed before space flight is more accessible to all humans ?
  2. What, in your opinion, are the psychological, economical, and technological benefits of experiencing the overview effect first hand?
  3. How can we advocate for an increased interest in space travel and funding for space exploration( any organizations we could join etc.)

I'm sure you hear this all the time but traveling to outer space is a life long dream/goal of mine!

SpacecadetShep

  1. Launch costs have to come down substantially
  2. You realize that we are living a lie: the economy is not the wholly owned subsidiary of the biosphere it's the other way around.
  3. There are many space related organizations that you can join it depends on which one best matches your interests

Hey Ron! In the past couple of years, I've decided to actively pursue becoming an astronaut. One thing that's been majorly inspiring to me has been this concept, seeing earth from space.

As someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, I'm curious as to how has this experience shaped the way that you view/interact with nature?

Ewoktoremember

From space I saw the reality of the world that we live in. I saw an iridescent biosphere teeming with life. I saw the reality that we are all deeply interconnected and interdependent. That perspective changes everything!


I'm sure you get this a lot but does the world seem like an incredibly small petty place now?

nothingworthnothing

When we zoom out to the vantage point from space all our differences and things we fight over blur into insignificance.


Hi Ron,

In what ways do you think you are different now than before you visited outer space?

DaWalrus69

My definition of the word HOME has expanded to include the entire Earth


Hi Ron. Thanks for AMA. Is it possible to buy a copy of your book signed by yourself to me? Maybe not the type of question you was expecting, but if you don't ask...! Also, which was the stranger experience for yourself; leaving the Earth, or re-entry?

tattoo_deano

You can get an autographed copy of my book here: http://www.orbitalperspective.com/special-orders.html#specialorder

I think the stranger experience was leaving the Earth vs returning to Earth. I knew much better what I was getting myself into when I was on my way back.


My goal since I was little was to become a pilot. However, since entering college i've decided to put my focus into aerospace engineering. Would you have any ideas on what classes to focus on? Which career is a more rewarding path?

Coldfire00

Both careers are very rewarding and fortunately both careers are very complimentary. Do both!


What steps did you take to becoming an astronaut? What initially fueled your desire to become one?

ItsFuchieTime

The steps were: Advanced degrees in engineering Joined the USAF and became a fighter pilot and then a test pilot

What inspired me was the first Moon landing


Hello. i am a 16 years old student and i dont know what to study. I really like space and my dream is to work on ISS. What can I study to go in there? I like physics and technology. I am thinking of studying an engineering (telecommunications engineering or mechanical Engineering) What is the best option?

vicrpa

Since you like physics, technology and engineering I suggest you pursue those. Then find applications for those courses of study that you are truly passionate about and pursue a career in those areas.


Before going to space for an extended period of time, what did you think you would miss the most about being down on earth (if you thought about that at a all)? After spending over three months in space, what did you actually miss the most about being on earth?

geezas

I missed my family most of all. Beyond that I missed all the things that define beauty of life on Earth (the breeze in my face, the sounds of the birds, and pizza)


Hi Ron and thank you for your AMA.

Some practical questions around space walk. I assume that it is a lengthy task that span many hours, including preparations.

What if during the space walk you have to do the big one? You cannot just take a quick break for obvious reasons. Or does it never happen? Do you prepare yourself with "low residue food". Do you wear diapers? I would imagine that it would be quite a task to clean yourself afterwards if the accident happens.

ITakeMassiveDumps

We do wear a diaper during spacewalks but to my knowledge they've never been used for the "big one".


When you're about to fall asleep on the space station and your mind begins to wander, do you ever get anxiety attacks when you remember where you are?

This happens to me on flights, can't imagine what it's like floating in a tin can high above the world...

invertedmaverick

No, fortunately that never happened to me.


Have you ever had to deal with a flatlander; which usually by proxy means they don't believe we've ever put a man in space. If so do you ever humor them and actually engage in conversation about those subjects?

zekparsh

No I've never met anyone who thinks the Earth exists but I know there out there somewhere.


Do you believe that drones are the future of military flight?

defendors86

If you're asking if I think that drones will completely replace piloted aircraft: I don't think so (unless there's a very compelling reason to do that)


Hi Ron! My question is below;

Why and how did you become astronaut, and what was your inspirations to become one? (Did you have a person that made want to become an astronaut?)

Nafiblu

I wanted to be an astronaut since July 20th 1969. The 1st Moon landing inspired me to join that group of explorers that were able to step off our planet and look back. I took the traditional path. I was a military fighter pilot and test pilot and earned advanced degrees in engineering.


What's the coolest thing you can see on earth with the naked eye?

Skullify

It's all cool


Hello Sir,

My Question is :

What was your feeling when you saw Earth from Space for the first time? How do you describe it? Was it beautifully unique? Like seeing something so wonderful that you can't believe you live on this planet?

sweety_b

The first time I saw the Earth from space I was filled with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the planet from that perspective and gratitude for the planet that we've been given. And in some way I can't really explain being physically detached from the Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it.


Hi Ron! As a proponent for the positive effect that seeing this planet from space would have on one's perspective, I wrote a 3 minute short on what it would be like to travel to space.

https://medium.com/@ryan.peter.scott/above-us-and-all-around-b839b0dceeba#.pih3qfl74

It would be neat if you gave it a read (and all you other redditors!) and let me know your opinion. I think it would absolutely be fascinating to travel to space and experience first hand the Overview effect. Will definitely be checking our your book.

As a question I am curious as to what you were able to witness from space, that you were previously unaware that you would be able to when you first went up? How did that impact you?

Cheers!

101Airborne

I'll give it a read


What Earth-bound experience do you think can also give people a transformative global perspective?

Or are we Earth folk stuck with what we've got?

richardcpeterson

The most transformational thing I've ever experienced on Earth (or in space) is making a real difference in someone else's life.


Hi Ron! so... are aliens for real?

SkankHunt42_________

I have no idea - what do you think?


Hi, I was hoping that you could answer what is the best way a college student today could get into your field, and also what type of vehicle do you fly for world view. Thanks!

koolaidman0423

The best path for a present college student to take is to pick a course of study that you are truly interested in and learn as much as you can in that field. Ideally, this course of study would have a technical aspect. Technical skills are very important in the space business.

At present I'm using powered parachutes as test platforms for development of our spacecraft landing systems. We will be flying our spacecraft under a high altitude balloon and return to Earth under steerable parachutes.


Will you elaborate more on how going to space changed your perspective? Would you say it broadened? How else did your world-view change?

dubbfoolio

Seeing the Earth from space filled me with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the planet from that perspective and gratitude for the planet that we've been given. And in some way I can't really explain being physically detached from the Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it. This perspective expanded my definition of the word Home - home became the whole Earth.


What were your thoughts when you first entered space, and right before when you went on your first spacewalk?

Su25Thunderfrog

Thought when I first entered space: We made it! = We survived Thought right before going out on my first space walk: What am I getting myself into?


How on earth does a pilot go about getting hired by NASA? This would be a dream come true for me!

The_Dipster

I took the traditional route: advanced degree in engineering, military fighter pilot and test pilot


Hi Ron, thank you for doing this AMA. Do you think it's possible for colonization of humans in space or on different planets within our lifetime? If so, how soon? Thank you for your time

Saltycook

I do think it's possible for us to colonize space but if you're talking about terraforming planets, we won't be able to do that until we figure out how to control our own atmosphere. In the words of the late Carl Sagan for the foreseeable future, "The Earth is where we make our stand"


Based on your experience aboard the ISS and with life in space in general, which pets do you think would be the best ones to have in space? Dogs seem like they might have trouble getting around with no gravity, do you think cats could adapt better? Are space parrots the new best pet to have? I am interested in both adaptability and cuteness. Thank you!

SravBlu

I assume Tribbles would probably be best


Who are we,as a human race, from your perspective?

HearThatNoise

One Single Human Family


Did you have any life changing revelations about how infinitesimally insignificant we are while looking at Earth? Also did you ever pee while in space and just watch it float around there for a while?

tmbsj0097

I never got the impression that we are infinitesimally small while I was in space - on the contrary, I realized how incredibly special we all are.

No, I never pee'd and watched it float around for awhile that would be weird and very messy.


Hi Ron,

I wonder if you can describe your path to getting the astronaut gig - how did you first apply to NASA? What's the process like?

superhelical

I took the traditional route: advanced degree in engineering, military fighter pilot and test pilot. I applied the first time in 1997 but was not selected. I applied again in 1999 and was selected for the astronaut class of 2000. Our class received our acceptance calls on July 20th 2000 (the anniversary of the 1st Moon landing).


Hi, thanks for doing this AMA!

What would you recommend to a high school student who wants to be an astronaut? Thanks!

Frenchie00

Study hard, learn as much as you can, find something you truly love to do and be the very best you can be at it.


Just a simple question. How does it feel having a different perspective when you saw Earth from space?

MusicMakesUBraver

Seeing the Earth from space filled me with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the planet from that perspective and gratitude for the planet that we've been given. And in some way I can't really explain being physically detached from the Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it. This perspective expanded my definition of the word Home - home became the whole Earth.


What is the Orbital Perspective? How did it change your view of humanity and its relation to Earth?

Aurora__aura

That's a big question that took me almost 200 pages to explain in my book, The Orbital Perspective. In a nut shell, my message is that each and everyone of us is riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, we are all deeply interconnected and interdependent and we are all one human family. This is not a cliche' or a philosophy, this is the reality of the world that we live in, this is fact.


This is great!

I have been wanting to design an experiment using virtual reality to test if the Orbital Perspective, or Overview Effect, can be reproduced without going into space. I think it can, as I believe this effect is based on neurological processes like psychological distance. However, I have not been able to find anyone who could make a realistic VR film to use. Any ideas? Do you have access to any?

I dream of something like a coming-of-age ceremony for young adults...where they can experience (2nd hand) some of the things you have. Imagine the power that this perspective would have if many, many more people could also have it!

Edit: I apologize, but this AMA got me really excited.

McZwick

I have never experienced any realistic VR of space but I know there are many efforts working to create that experience. One big challenge is the experience is much more than just a visual experience. I think we'll be able to approximate the experience though.


Colonel,

Being someone interested in receiving a commission in the USAF as an officer; how would you recommend going about obtaining one? I'm really considering the Air Force Academy or getting an ROTC scholarship but seeing as you went through OTS I'd like to hear how it went.

Secondly, being really interested in aerospace, and considering majoring in aerospace engineering, I was curious how NASA works with the USAF in conducting flights? Working on anything space-related would be a dream come true for me, and I was wondering how you went along your path with both so that I know what I can do after receiving a commission in regard to space.

Thanks!

Appreax

If you have the opportunity to go to the USAFA - that's an opportunity that I wouldn't pass up. Having said that, any path to the Air Force is a good one. I cant answer the NASA-USAF question, I've never worked with the USAF during my time at NASA


Hi Ron !

I've always found travel to be really interesting. I can get what you mean by the change in perspective, but on a smaller scale. Atleast, when traveling by flight, I've always felt that humans are all travelers, skittering about the Earth going about their individual lives.

What was it like for you when you saw the Earth for the first time ? What was going through your head ?

Is it easy for you to adjust to life back on Earth with people who aren't "enlightened" of their special existence and potential ? Do you ever get discouraged by this ?

RedditorDoc

The first time I saw the Earth from space I was filled with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see the planet from that perspective and gratitude for the planet that we've been given. And in some way I can't really explain being physically detached from the Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it.


Ron,

Has seeing Earth from space made you handle arguments and conflicts with people differently? I don´t know if you are religious or anything, but I would imagine that seeing the Earth would kinda knock some sense into anyone about us just being these momentary manifestations on a rock that will go through climatic changes and clean itself of life over and over again. I would bet that after this you don´t cry over spilled milk, or.... do you?

neon_chomsky

I'm not sure how much the perspective has changed the way I deal with problems, difficulties and people but it has certainly changed my awareness of how I SHOULD act and deal with things.


Did you ever get sick of peeing in zero gravity?

Wozman101

No, it was wonderful and provided a freedom of movement I'd never known. With the light push of a finger I could fly across the space station. If I wanted to work on something on the ceiling I could just flip upside-down and turn the ceiling into the floor.


What is your most awe inspiring experience?

NotAnAI

I think I've had too many awe inspiring experiences to pick just one. Of all my time living in space and on the bottom of the ocean I think I've been most inspired not by these experiences but by knowing amazing people that are making a real difference in our world. To me those selfless people are the definition of "awesome"


Hi Ron! I'd like to thank you for doing this AMA. I have just one question.

I'm really interested in the aerospace field myself. I hope I can someday be an aerospace engineer, but I am still in high school. What steps do you recommend I should take to pursue a career in this field while I'm still in high school?

Swampert_Master

Accel in then fundamental course that engineering is based on: math, physics, natural sciences etc. Also find a specific area of study that your passionate about and do the very best you can in that.


Do you have any idea what the sound level is inside the shuttle during takeoff? I've seen data on the noise exposure of astronauts in the ISS, but haven't seen any from inside the shuttle during takeoff.

If not, can you compare the sound to something a normal person may have experience with?

SmallFaithfulTestes

I'm sorry I don't have the actual data. But to make a rough comparison it's much louder than an airline but not as loud as a rock concert


Hello,

I'm currently an air traffic controller with the US Navy but would like to get into being a test pilot and one day if possible a NASA pilot.

What do they look for and what's a good route to doing so? Currently 20 so I've yet to go to college.

Austangj

I think the first step would be to get your college degree. Based on your long-term career goals, I recommend that you pursue a technical degree (engineering for example)


Q: Hi, What's your opinion about space tourism and whether we are gonna be able to achieve it in our life time at reasonable cost? Projects that Tesla and Amazon are working on.

amellice

I think the more people that can see our planet from space the better off all of us here on the surface will be. Yes, I believe that space tourism is achievable and eventually the costs will come down considerably.


You spent quite a bit of time in Aquarius. Did that experience also impact your view of the world, in ways similar to or different than your time on the ISS?

ccstat

It certainly changed my view of the ocean. Our oceans became much more magical and amazing to me. I also developed an understanding about how important our oceans are and that we have a responsibility to take care of them.


Do i really need to go to space to chNge perspective forever? How long will my perspective be changed if i just takea 172 up to 10000 agl?

spartansheep1

I do not think you need to go to space to change your perspective. I like to say, you don't have to be in orbit to have an orbital perspective. I can't say how it will affect other people. I can only say how it affected me. The change in perspective that I experienced, I'm sure is permanent.


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