Yuri Gagarin was 27 years old when he left the protective atmosphere of Earth, and then returned 108 minutes later with the perspective nearly all of us privileged to follow him would come to understand:
“Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”
Fifty years later, when I left Earth from the same launchpad as Yuri Gagarin, I took with me another long held view of astronauts and cosmonauts: you can’t see borders from space. It was during my five and one-half month mission that I discovered that I was wrong. You can see human-made borders from space.
Despite this, the orbital perspective of living and working in space shows us just how interconnected we are. We are all in this together. The orbital perspective, first sensed by Yuri Gagarin fifty-one years ago, is the realization that the only way we can solve the problems facing our planet is by working together.
On April 21st and 22nd, citizens of Earth will pool their brainpower and their passion for problem solving in a 48 hour technology development marathon taking place on all seven continents – and in space. The International Space Apps Challenge is the epicenter for the kind of collaboration that gives birth to innovation, and clarity to issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.
The Space Apps Challenge draws a straight line from what confronts humans who live in space to what confronts us here on Spaceship Earth. Think about it: we have no natural resources in the hostile environment of space. This forces us to generate, collect, store, conserve, recycle, and manage our resources wisely – just like we must on Earth. After all, the life support systems that sustain astronauts onboard the International Space Station are not really different than those that sustain humans on Earth: water, air, food, environment; even community, communication and peace.
NASA is working with organizations around the world on the International Space Apps Challenge as part of the United States commitment to the Open Government Partnership. As of today, 1,300 concerned citizens of Earth, discipline experts, engineers, scientists, and software code developers will collaborate at 25 physical locations worldwide to build software, open hardware, data visualization, and citizen science platform solutions from publicly available data that address strategic exploration and social needs. All challenges are listed on the International Space Apps website, including one submitted by Fragile Oasis.
Of all the innovations that can come from the International Space Apps Challenge, I believe the most important of all is the collaboration itself. A global community coming together to tackle challenges facing our planet demonstrates the power of collaboration across borders, cultures and continents.
I look forward to meeting everyone at the San Francisco location, and interacting online with others all over the globe. Please join us!
Competition among nations thrust one human into space fifty-one years ago today. International cooperation keeps us there, and is the key to taking us far beyond what we can see with just our eyes.
Listen here for Ron’s interview with Gov2.0 Radio about #SpaceApps:
Johnson Space Center