A little over two years ago, I left my dream job as an astronaut, a career I worked my entire life to achieve. I left NASA for one overarching reason—to share a unique perspective of our planet that can have profound, positive effects on the trajectory of our global society. I left so I can share that perspective full-time.

Everything I have done since leaving NASA has been with the motive of communicating what I call the Orbital Perspective. I’ve written the book, The Orbital Perspective, and I am working on the full-length feature documentary, Orbital. I also help launch various startups (including the first civilian spaceflight training academy), and I teach the online course “Introduction to the Orbital Perspective” at Drexel University. Certainly, in all of my Unreasonable articles, I try to share the orbital perspective with readers.

The more people who are able to experience our planet from space, the better off all of us here on the surface will be. Tweet This Quote

What all these endeavors have in common and seek to achieve is communicate the transformative power of acquiring a big picture and long-term perspective of our planet. My hope has been to figuratively transport those involved to a higher vantage point, where all the pieces of the puzzle come into view.

Now, for the first time since leaving NASA, I will no longer be confined to just figuratively transporting people to this vantage point. Thanks to my new position as Chief Pilot at World View Enterprises, I will be able to literally transport people to the edge of space, where I believe many will experience a profound shift in their own worldview.

One of my main responsibilities will be to help develop the test program to do something that has never been done before—fly a crewed capsule under a steerable parachute from the edge of space and land gently back at a predetermined point on the Earth.

space balloon

The World View balloon with the suspended crewed capsule.

Once our test program is complete, we will begin flying others to the edge of space. In the comfort of a shirtsleeve environment with massive windows to observe our planet, World View voyagers will enjoy a five-hour transformative experience. I truly believe the more people who are able to experience our home planet from that vantage point, the better off all of us here on the surface will be.

In addition to the customers who will pave the way and jumpstart this high-altitude industry (just as those flying with the early barnstormers paved the way for the airline industry), we plan on partnering with humanitarian, environmental, and educational organizations to accelerate the transformative effects of the program.

When we connect remote communities to the Internet, we will find solutions we never dreamed of from places we have never heard of. Tweet This Quote

In addition to bringing people to the edge of space, we will conduct experiments in the upper atmosphere and space environment. Large gaps remain in humanity’s knowledge of the upper atmosphere that limit our ability to model climate and weather patterns. World View’s plan for an unprecedented frequency of flights will enable a comprehensive study of our planet’s upper atmosphere.

The program also has profound implications for communications, Internet service, energy production and a myriad of other applications normally associated with the significantly more expensive satellite industry. To date, there has not been a strong effort to augment satellites in Earth orbit with high altitude balloons, which are considerably less expensive. These balloon systems can launch on demand, whereas satellites take years of planning and design to construct and launch. Once a satellite is launched, it retains whatever technology it was designed with. Balloon systems, however, can return for repairs and upgrades.

Using this technology, I look forward to working with organizations striving to provide Internet access to remote and impoverished communities around the world. We need to bring the 5 billion creative and problem-solving minds without access into the global conversation. Through this, we will find solutions we never dreamed of, from places we’ve never heard of.

hurricane irene

Hurricane Irene at its peak, photo by Ron Garan/NASA

Additionally, World View has major implications for disaster response. One of the most critical things that can be lost in a serious storm or natural disaster is communications. World View Balloon communication platforms can be launched in response to (or in anticipation of) a natural disaster in order to re-establish communications capabilities to first responders and those affected—saving lives in the process.

True innovation is not just doing something that already exists better, but doing something completely new. Tweet This Quote

This team embraces the same entrepreneurial spirit that launched the aviation industry and understands that true innovation is not just doing something that already exists better, but doing something completely new that revolutionizes or creates industries.

The year 2016 will be exciting for World View and the commercial spaceflight industry, as we are creating an industry that presently doesn’t exist. I look forward to our upcoming flight tests and, in particular, our first crewed flight. Although we can’t predict exactly when this will happen, we are moving fast—our flight test program is well underway, and we are constructing a massive headquarters, a balloon manufacturing and testing facility, mission control and a launch pad co-located at Spaceport-Tucson.

Above all, what I look forward to is people experiencing a new perspective of our planet for the first time. Most importantly, what matters is what they do with that new perspective and how they change the world for the better.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Fragile Oasis blog.

About the author

Ron Garan

Ron Garan

A fighter pilot, social entrepreneur, astronaut, and aquanaut, Ron Garan has done it all. He is now the Chief Pilot at World View Enterprises, co-founder and director of Manna Energy, and the author of Orbital Perspective.

  • Ron Garan

    I’m happy to answer any questions you have about this post, Ron

  • Maricela Solis de Kester

    @rongaran:disqus how do you think the #WorldView experience
    will compare to flying on the international space station#ISS?

  • Ron Garan

    Maricela, Worldview flights will take us to about 19 miles above the Earth. The ISS is about 250 miles above the Earth. Although that sounds like a big difference there actually is not much difference in the atmosphere between 19 miles and 250 miles. At 19 miles we will be above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere. As we ascend under the balloon we will se the sky change from blue to black, we will see the curvature of the Earth and we will be amazed at how thin our atmosphere is. When we look at the Sun we will see our Sun against a black sky not a blue sky. All these things will be very similar to the view from the ISS. What will be difference is from the ISS altitude we will see more of the Earth’s surface and in the World View balloon we won’t be in a weightless environment. It will be an amazing and I believe transformative experience.

  • Andrew Antonio

    @RonGaran, how does World View’s research platform differ from satellites? And is it similar or better in any ways?

  • Charles Huang

    What programs do you have planned that would help your passengers use and extend their experience and perspective once back on Earth?

  • Carmen Elisa

    @Ron Garan, what would you say to someone who might be hesitant to become a Voyager and go into the stratosphere?

  • Andrew Antonio

    @rongaran:disqus I’ve been reading your book “Orbital Perspecitve” and I’m curious as to how you think people will actually be able to affect change on a global scale? Many of us won’t have the means to fly to near-space when World View takes off, so how can we actively participate in understanding and sharing the orbital perspective?

  • Ron Garan

    That’s a great question Charles. We are in conversations with humanitarian, educational and environmental groups with the goal of using this platform to share the unique perspective of our planet and inspire people to make a difference. We are also looking at the possibility of using the platform to promote peace efforts around the world by bringing up people from various competing groups to experience the vantage point together. We are very open to additional suggestions.

  • Ron Garan

    Carmen, I would say that I predict that the trip will greatly expand your perspective of the world we call home.

  • Ron Garan

    Andrew, one of the main themes of the book and the reason why I share so many stories about people who have never been in space is that you don’t have to be in orbit to have an orbital perspective. But it does require us to at least figuratively transport ourselves to a vantage point where we can take in the big picture and long-term implications of every decision we make. Taking a specific action may make sense locally but actually cause harm beyond the local area. Taking action may make sense in the short-term but actually be harmful to long-term progress. Taking an orbital perspective involves taking off our 2-dimensional, ground level blinders and look at all the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together for our global society in this one ecosystem called Earth.

  • Max Mantey

    Awesome! The more people are connected and the more perspective gained are all strides in the right direction for our society. This may be too general of a question, but what would you see from the vantage point you’re striving for? How far/what to be looking for. And lastly, what it all means.

  • Logan Coffman

    What an awesome post Ron. Similar to the pre-Copernican era mankind still thought we were the center of the Universe, the enlightening power of science, and of travel (in this case), can literally change the course of human history. I find it unfortunate that even today with the seemingly unbridled access we have to information and technology that there are those among us who would poison and pollute our shared spaceship (earth) and promote discrimination when we are all clearly here, together, sharing the same human experience. Thank you for being an evangelist of science, and promoting the unification of humanity!

  • Ron Garan

    Thank you for your kind words Logan.

  • Ron Garan

    Max from the vantage point of World View flight, we will se the sky change from blue to black, we will see the curvature of the Earth and we will be amazed at how thin our atmosphere is. When we look at the Sun we will see our Sun against a black sky not a blue sky. It will be an amazing and I believe transformative experience. What it all means is a personal thing. I took about 200 pages to explain what it means to me in my book “The Orbital Perspective” but in a nutshell it means we’re all in the same boat.

  • Connor Harrison

    @rongaran:disqus While exciting, the days leading up to space flight must be very stressful. How do you prepare mentally for endeavors of this type, and what recommendations would you have for future passengers?

  • Ron Garan

    I think the Russians treat the time right before a spaceflight correctly. Before the crew leaves Russia for launch preparations in Kazakhstan, the crew and their families spend time together at a resort. Once in quarantine at the launch facility they also build in ample free time and stress reducing activities. I think before a launch it’s critically important to be able to spend time with family and friends and time for relaxation.

  • Samuel Cannon

    I am very fascinated by the work that World View is doing. Being able to restore communications during disasters will be game changing. I myself would thoroughly enjoy going to the edge of space in order to gain new perspective on the plant we live. Thank you for sharing, Ron. Please keep working towards bettering our society through the use of everything World View has to offer.

  • Ron Garan

    Thanks for the kind words Samuel

  • Matt Goodman

    Wow incredible post. The world needs this perspective today more than ever and leading the charge on making this a reality is something I respect very much. Between the climate change crisis and the way people in today’s society STILL cannot see all of humanity as equal this project takes utmost importance. Providing the incredible experience entailed by World View will touch lives resulting in the kind of innovation and change we cant yet imagine. God speed on this journey Ron and thank you for being the change we need in the world.

  • Noah Green

    I think the idea of leaving space is amazing. Not everyone can be astronauts but everyone has their childhood sense of wonder. As i read this article, the images that entered my head were those of the movies Interstellar, Apollo 13, The Martian, pretty much any space movie. I know that people can experience the feeling of space by flying high in the air and nose diving but seeing the view from the edge of the atmosphere would be an experience like no other. This is really interesting how you incorporate space with entrepreneurship. Anything is possible right?

  • Reid Trauernicht

    I love this idea. I want people to go up and realize were all the same people on just a small planet. People will realize just how far we’ve come with technology. They’ll appreciate the world for what it is, an oasis in the middle of nowhere. This should lead to making more rational decisions regarding protecting the environment as well as building a sense of unity between people. People will hopefully realize how special Earth, life, and everything we have is so important. I can’t wait to see how this technology could actually do the world good. Plus, who wouldn’t want to go to space.

  • Hunter Ward

    This is a fantastic article. I really enjoyed the more outside-of-the-box approach to space exploration. What really intrigued me in this article, is the fact that these balloons could possibly replace satellites. There is a growing concern about over crowding our earths atmosphere with satellites. There are so many out dated satellites, and the fact that if one of these satellites needed repairs or updated equipment, in lack of better words, be SOL. These balloons could fix these problems and help with advancements in the future.

  • David Kidd

    One of the most unique articles I have read on unreasonable yet. Commendable project, competent speaker/author, and a revolutionary idea. Commercial spaceflight is a industry I have always been intrigued by and I am thrilled world view is innovating this new market.

  • Tommy Moore

    This is a very interesting idea for a company. Certainly, no company has ever tried to do something like this, taking people to space. If this company is successful they will create an entirely new market, commercial space travel. However, since its the early stages of commercial space travel, the ‘travel’ part may not be as extensive as it may sound. Commercial space travel sounds like transporting people from place to place by going through space, when in reality, you’re simply going up in a balloon, then floating back down. So, despite the fact that there is not a lot of ‘traveling’, this industry will be useful in regards to communication. It will cutback on our reliance on satellites greatly, which continue to surround our planet as more and more are sent up. These satellites also cannot be retrieved, meaning that once they are out of commission, they are essentially just floating pieces of garbage. Being that the balloons can come back down and be repaired, this would no longer be an issue.

  • Camille McNeal

    @@rongaran:disqus, this is all really thrilling and inspiring to hear! I would love to take the trip up to the edge of space but worry it’s simply out of my budget. How much are tickets now and do you anticipate them ever being affordable enough for the average citizen to ride? Secondly, when will your flight tests begin? Excited about your progress. Thank you for sharing and best of luck!

  • James Robertson

    Call To Action: In this Call to Action, I took to social media again but in a different form. The last time I did a focus group as well as posted to social media giant: Instagram. This time I utilized Instagram again. I wanted to approach it with instagram again this time because it is social media site that I use often and many more followers than say twitter. With how powerful Instagram can be as a marketing tool, it helps in showing others visually as well as goes along the lines of the theme of the article in viewing and sharing the world from a different perspective than usual. The theme of the article and what has inspired me to choose this article is looking at the world and anything in general from a new perspective. In the article, a famous astronaut plans to fly people to the edge of space to show them what the world looks like from an unimaginable point of view that has never been possible before. To raise awareness and support for such an amazing idea, I posted to Instagram the article link and challenged others to follow suit with a new found view or fact on something they consume that would make people’s head spin. In order to show my contribution, set a precedent, a make people’s head spin with a great example I chose to share my new found perspective on coffee by sharing the fact: Each coffee bean is hand picked and sorted one by one on the sides of volcanoes by some of the most impoverished humans living on earth…Be careful next time you spill the beans/grounds when making your cup! As a result, I was able to acquire 18 likes and one comment over a short time. I believe this social media post has created awareness on a small but significant scale that can be spread quickly all due to being inspired by an amazing astronaut with an idea.

  • Sierra Stein

    This was such an enjoyable read, excellent article @rongaran:disqus! What a unique perspective, your experiences truly reflect the definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur. I found the paragraph on using this technology to bring internet access to remote and impoverished communities all over the world, very inspiring. I wonder how using this technology would compare to what Mark Zuckerberg is trying to do by bringing free internet to India (I don’t know what tech platform he is using). Hypothetically, would the internet you offer to these rural areas be free? Are you looking develop your ideas and form more of a business or simply continue to work as a social entrepreneur? Your hunger for success and betterment of our society is just the kind of attitude we need in the world! Keep up the good work!