There Are No Politics on the International Space Station

Former NASA astronaut Ron Garan explains how the cooperative lessons learned through space exploration are applicable in other realms of life. Garan is author of the new book The Orbital Perspective.
  • Transcript


Ron Garan: A good example of collaboration is to look at the International Space Station. The International Space Station is arguably one of the most complex, complicated structures ever built. It’s bigger than a football field. If it was on the Earth it would weigh about a million pounds. It is an amazing orbiting research facility and it was built in space by 15 nations. Some of these nations were not always the best of friends. In some cases, they were on opposite sides of the Cold War and opposite sides of the space race. And what enabled this to happen in space? What enabled this construction project? What enabled this amazing accomplishment of humanity was the willingness to set aside our differences and work together towards a common goal. And what we did is we found something that we agreed on. In this particular case space exploration. And we decided to work through that and what developed is personal relationships.

People got to know each other. They got to see that their hopes and dreams and their motivation for being in the space program and being in the space business were the same. And through those personal relationships trust developed. And through that trust, that trust that was built through those personal relationships enabled the program to weather the storms, weather the eventual bumps in the road and the crises that occurred. And I think that is a really good lesson that we can apply. We can take the lesson that built the International Space Station and bring it down to Earth. We can put it in the context of our rapidly developing hyper-interconnected global society and realize that we can do amazing things here on Earth by applying that same level of collaboration. I think the secret sauce, if you will, was to seek the low-hanging fruit. Seek those things that we do agree on and use that to build relationships and to build a platform through which we can then start to address the things that we don’t agree on.