Astronaut Ron Garan first shared about the orbital perspective with TEDGlobal 2011, asking two vital questions: How can we use this orbital research facility to improve life on Earth? How can we use the orbital perspective to inspire people to make a difference?

The orbital perspective: Ron Garan from the ISS from TEDTalks on Vimeo.

Ron talks about conducting a spacewalk, 30 meters above the International Space Station, and explains that “we can look down from our orbital perspective and realize that each one of us is 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.”

Ron Garan on EVA

He proceeded to share some of the lessons learned from the international collaboration that created the ISS and enable crewmembers to live and work there on a long-term basis. The audience could also see much of the incredible science research that is happening on the Station and what kinds of solutions it could mean on Earth.

If we can land on the Moon, if we can build something like the space station, what more could we really make possible?

Ideas continued to spread, and networks continued to grow. Powerful ideas can spur world-changing initiatives, and it was quickly apparent that there are multiple organizations all over the world looking to develop truly effective collaboration platforms. It is critical to unify those efforts.

The key challenge is demonstrating how vital and valuable collaboration truly is, despite the real and perceived risks. Data-based collaborations make solutions better through the pooling of resources and information. Working together multiplies cost-effectiveness while reducing duplication of effort. It is the only way to enable economies – and solutions – of scale. Perhaps most importantly, collaboration encourages greater accountability and fosters trust. We are all interconnected, and the only way we’ll solve this is together.

This weekend, from TEDxSalford, Ron is announcing the launch of an international effort to connect humanity’s change makers to the challenges of our planet – and to each other – through a universal, opn source platform that will help achieve our common goals. (You can watch the presentations live here on Saturday, January 28.)

We are calling the mechanism that we will build the Unity Node. The first node of the International Space Station – also known as Unity – was launched to be the central connector of all the other modules. The name illustrates how the space program has inspired our vision for collaboration. The orbital perspective that we have as we look back upon our Earth from space allows us to intimately experience our interconnectedness, while the example of international collaboration that constructed the incredible orbiting research facility demonstrates that by working together we can accomplish anything.

Unity Node will be a connector. There are two pieces to this connection: a central data tool and outward facing apps that make that data useful and accessible. Just as the Unity Node on the ISS connects the modules together and contains the lines and cables that provide for life, this Unity Node will connect the various organizations and efforts with resource and communication lifelines, creating a platform for changing the world.

The real Unity Node story, though, is the collaboration – not the tool or the technology. People are the ones who affect change. The standard of success will be effective collaboration that enables consistent, sustainable world change.

The question is what kind of world do you want? And what can you do – big or small – to help it become that way?

what kind of world

You don’t have to be in orbit to have the orbital perspective, and you don’t have to accept things the way they are. Unity Node is invested in reducing that sobering contradiction that we see when we look down at our world. Now is the time to improve life on Earth so that it is not only visibly beautiful, but where life is beautiful for all.

Join the collaboration conversation here.

About Ali

Community Advocate

NASA Headquarters

alicia.llewellyn-1@nasa.gov