Fifteen countries have been able to come together to build and operate the International Space Station, so it should be possible to have that type of cooperation to solve the problems on Earth, retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan tells Newsmax TV.
While on his third spacewalk, Garan "took the opportunity ... to turn my lights off on my helmet, and when I did that — I was rising up into this utter blackness, this indescribable darkness and blackness — but when I turned my lights off, and I had a chance for my eyes to adjust, all of a sudden I could see infinity," he told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Monday.
"I could see the entire universe. All the stars came out, I could see satellites whizzing by, and that was tremendous," he said.
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"But on the way back, it was on a daytime side of the orbit, and now at the top of this arc I was 100 feet above the space station looking down at this amazing accomplishment of humanity against the backdrop of our just indescribably beautiful planet," Garan said.
"What really struck me in that moment was the international cooperation that built the International Space Station," he said. "When you look at the difference between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life on our planet, it makes you wonder.
"If we could do that in space — 15 nations, several of which were not always the best of friends, some of which were on the opposite sides of the Cold War, opposite sides of the space race — if they could do that in space, imagine what we could do by working together to solve the problems facing our planet."
One of the problems, according to Garan, is that "there's about 20 million organizations around the world working to improve life on Earth, but for the most part they're not engaged in a unified coordinated effort.
"There's so much lack of efficiency, duplication of effort, there's, unfortunately, destructive competition even amongst some humanitarian organizations — and that's competition that doesn't lead to better goods and services," he said, but "to higher prices and lack of the good that these organizations could otherwise do."
"The first step to being able to apply that perspective to solving the problems facing our planet is to just realize that we're long past the point where any one organization, any one [non-governmental] NGO, any one nation, for that matter, can affect the type of real change that's required."
Garan would like to see countries "find those things that we agree on, like space exploration," and other points of cooperation, "and then hopefully that builds a platform of personal relationships, a platform of trust from which we can then address the things that we don't agree on."
However, "we tend to do the exact opposite. We tend to take the things that we agree on and we use them as leverage, as pressure to force the things that we don't agree on, and that really doesn't work on the most basic level," Garan said.
"By embracing the low-hanging fruit, if we will, embracing the things that we do agree on, we can start to work on the things that we don't."
Garan is the author of "The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles,"
which was released in February.
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