When Leonard Nimoy passed away, it wasn’t just Star Trek fans who mourned. Condolences poured from NASA and the White House, from scientists, engineers and astronauts the world over, from powerful, important and influential people whose lives had been touched by the series and Nimoy’s iconic portrayal of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s ever-logical first officer.
If the outpouring of sentiment over Nimoy’s passing proved one thing, it was this: the nerds who were so picked-upon for decades thanks to their devotion to all things science-y are no longer consigned to the shadowy depths of their parents’ basements.
In other words, the geeks have inherited the Earth.
And now, an actual visitor to space has moved beyond physics and towards philosophy with The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015). Written by astronaut Ron Garan, the book details Garan’s transformative experience during 178 days aboard the International Space Station and observations that he believes may hold the key to solving many of humankind’s problems here on Earth.
“I have wanted to write this book since returning from my first space mission in 2008,” Garan writes in the book. “Launching on Space Shuttle Discovery fulfilled a lifelong dream of flying in space. It also marked the start of another quest—a quest that would lead me to reject the status quo on our planet . . . and a quest to help make life on Earth as beautiful as the visible beauty of this planet when seen from space.”
Garan said his voyage into space filled him with “a profound feeling of hope” based on the spirit of cooperation and collaboration he shared with astronauts from other countries aboard the space station. He calls this awareness “the orbital perspective,” and he believes that perspective can help make him an agent of change.
“But I believe that the entire landscape of our society is changing, making available powerful collaborative tools that can engage the collective genius of our global society like never before,” he writes. “We are living in times of unprecedented interconnectedness . . . we do not have to accept that the suffering and conflict on our planet are inescapable.”
Garan said he wrote the book “to help create a global movement—a movement of inhabitants of this planet, known as humans, who believe that nothing is impossible, who are willing to set aside their differences and work together toward our common goals.”
The book has gained high praise from high-profile readers who know something about getting people from disparate backgrounds to work together. “Written from Ron Garan’s unique perspective as an astronaut, The Orbital Perspective reminds us of our common humanity and that the pressing challenge we face, we must face and resolve together through tolerance, dialogue and cooperation,” said Nobel Peace Laureate and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
If all of this sounds familiar, don’t be surprised. Universal respect and cooperation were the cornerstone of a science-fiction TV show that premiered nearly 50 years ago, a show in which an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance not only launched humans into the far reaches of space, but launched the imaginations of millions of viewers into a new era of hope. It’s an era and a new perspective that we imagine would have made Mr. Spock proud.