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Posts from outer space

07 October 2013 - 03:24 By Katharine Child
EXTREME SIGHTSEEING: The sun shines above the Earth, with the International Space Station in the foreground in this photograph taken by Nasa astronaut Ron Garan on a space walk in 2011.
EXTREME SIGHTSEEING: The sun shines above the Earth, with the International Space Station in the foreground in this photograph taken by Nasa astronaut Ron Garan on a space walk in 2011.
Image: REUTERS

Katharine Child interviewed Nasa astronaut Ron Garan, who spent six months at the International Space Station in 2011 and spoke at the weekend at the One Young World summit in Johannesburg.

Was becoming an astronaut your childhood dream?

I watched the moon landing on TV as a child. It had a tremendous impact on me as a kid. I understood humanity was no longer confined to our planet. We were an interplanetary species.

How do you deal with conflict in the confines of the International Space Station?

I was locked in a can with five other people for six months. I think the overriding thing is that we had a really important mission. We obviously had personality differences, but what you are doing is so important it seems trivial to fight.

You speak about the space station as a platform for international collaboration.

It is an incredible catalyst for peace. It allows us to rise above petty differences, above cultural barriers, towards a common goal.

The International Space Station is the biggest international collaboration in human history. We are making life better every day.

What research are you doing?

The research we do can't be done anywhere else on the planet. We study clean energy, climate change, diseases. For example, when astronauts [are in free-fall] they lose bone density. The breakthroughs in research on the effect of bone-density loss on astronauts has been profound for the treatment of osteoporosis.

You just retired from Nasa.

As soon as I retired on Monday I got on a plane to South Africa.

You left just before the US government shutdown.

Government operations stopped the day after I resigned. Had government shut down the day I retired, I would not have been able to leave Nasa; there would have been no one to process my resignation.

You are known for tweeting pictures from space @astro_ron.

Think of when you go somewhere. The coolest place you have ever been and you don't have a way to share your experiences. Tweeting and sharing photos enriched my experience up there.

What will you miss about space now that you have resigned?

Without a doubt, I will miss the view of our planet from space. It's life changing. It's an indescribably beautiful planet we have been given. We are riding through the universe on a spaceship together.

Words of wisdom for young from some extraordinary people

ARIANNA Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post:

  • "Sleep your way to the top. Sleep-deprived people make bad decisions. I rediscovered sleep and started sleeping seven or eight hours - was more productive, more creative , more joyful."

Speaking at the One Young World summit by video link, Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, urged women to lead:

  • We call girls "bossy", a word we don't use for boys, because they are "supposed" to lead.

Sir Richard Branson:

  • We have to campaign for honest, good leaders in every country because we deserve it.

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank:

  • Choose a problem and see if you can solve it in a business way. Don't do it as charity or philanthropy. If you make it sustainable it becomes a global solution.
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