Category Archives: humanitarian aid

@Astro_Ron Blasts Off @FragileOasis

Ron Garan is an incredible visionary. Not only is he an astronaut, he’s the force behind Manna Energy (one of our LAUNCH:Water innovations), and now his latest brainchild is nearly ready for its long-anticipated debut with new community interactive elements.

Ron, well known as @Astro_Ron to the tweetisphere, left planet Earth on top of a Soyuz TMA-21 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday, April 5, 2011 (Kazakh time, April 4th US time). He launched just one week shy of the 50th anniversary of the first human to leave this planet, Yuri Gagarin, who launched from the same launch pad April 12, 1961.

Ron Garan's Soyuz launch

Ron Garan's Soyuz launch. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioff

Ron is traveling to space for his first time on a Russian rocket, though he’s a space veteran with a previous Shuttle flight  and space walks under his belt during STS-124. His crewmates on this mission, Russian Cosmosnauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko are traveling in space for their maiden voyage.

Space Travelers leaving Earth

Space Travelers leaving Earth. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

Their Soyuz was decorated to commemorate the 5oth milestone, and carries Yuri’s likeness. Here is a twitpic from @Astro_Nicole Stott, who attended the launch.

@Astro_Nicole's twitpic of Soyuz

@Astro_Nicole's twitpic of Soyuz

Ron and his crewmates dock with Space Station on Wednesday, April 6th at 7:18 p.m. EDT. They will join NASA’s @Astro_Cady Coleman, ESA’s @Astro_Paolo Nespoli, and Cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev already on orbit since December 2010.

Astro_Paolo's tweet

The hatch opening and welcome ceremony will start around 8:45 pm. You can watch all this live on NASA TV. Personally, I prefer the new HDtv Ustream version. Great images!

While Ron’s in space, you’ll hear more about Fragile Oasis. We created the Fragile Oasis website to share stories of life on and off planet Earth through the eyes of NASA astronauts. Our next phase of the website design adds community engagement which makes use of the latest social media tools to engage users in conversations about space, while inspiring them to take action toward making our home planet a better place – one project at a time. Our goal is to provide a vehicle for all organizations committed to improving life for the inhabitants of planet Earth to connect, collaborate and inspire each other in their common goals.

New Fragile Oasis site

New Fragile Oasis site. Stay tuned...

We’ve been scrambling for months to get the new community portion of the site ready for debut. We’re still working out the bugs, but we think you’ll LOVE it!

Preview of Fragile Oasis Bloggernaut page

Preview of Fragile Oasis Bloggernaut page

We have celebrity guest bloggers lined up and exciting partnerships with some amazing Earth-based organizations who share Ron’s vision of making this Fragile Oasis a better place for those of us who will never have the chance to leave Earth’s gravity.

NASA supports Fragile Oasis as an investment in tomorrow. We want space to inspire you to make a positive impact here on Earth. Let’s see what you can do!

Thanks Ron for letting us help make your vision a reality.

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Filed under astronaut, Earth, environment, humanitarian aid, innovation, LAUNCH, NASA, social media, space

LAUNCH: We know WHY. Do you?

Last week, we held our West Coast LAUNCHpad Salon with the LAUNCH team to talk lessons learned from two successful events, LAUNCH:Water and LAUNCH:Health; and start planning LAUNCH:Energy. The Cazneau Group, one of our implementation partners, hosted the Salon at their offices in Sausalito, California. Great conversation, great setting, great food. But best of all, great common goal — to bring about positive change to our home planet, one innovation at a time.

LAUNCH: Accelerating Innovation for a Sustainable Future.

NASA, USAID, Department of State, and NIKE joined together to form LAUNCH in an effort to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to sustainability challenges. We’d been working on the LAUNCH concept for six months or so before having a program mature enough to bring in partners in December of 2009. In 2010, we successfully hosted two forums at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now we look ahead to”what next” — as in LAUNCH:Energy.

Lord of the Rings: One RingDuring our two days together, the LAUNCH team sifted through what makes our LAUNCH brand unique. We’re still working through the process, but what really resonated with me was the concept of LAUNCH as a Fellowship of Innovators. We joked about the ONE RING to RULE them ALL….and who got to wear it, but in essence, that’s what LAUNCH is. We’re an ever-expanding fellowship of cutting-edge thinkers — though not at all in a Sauron kind of way, for all you Lord of the Rings fans.

Each of the LAUNCH team founders is an innovator in his/her field of expertise. We came together to create an innovative program called LAUNCH, which selects ten innovators to interact with 30+ LAUNCH Councilmembers, who are thought leaders in their fields. Together, we’ve become a Fellowship to help propel promising innovations forward to make a difference addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Pretty cool, huh?

After returning to the office, a colleague shared with me a TED presentation by Simon Sinek: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”

Simon says (wink) that others “don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” He talks about why the Wright Brothers were successful. They were driven by a cause, they wanted to “change the course of the world.” And they did! Just like we want to accomplish with LAUNCH — to accelerate innovation for a sustainable future…and change the course of the world.

Wright Brothers Glider

Wright Brothers Glider

In his TED presentation, Simon Sinek also talks about the Law of Diffusion of Innovations, where 2.5% are Innovators, 13.5% are Early Adopters, and 34% are in the Early Majority. He claims that Innovators and Early Adaptors are comfortable making gut decisions driven by what they believe about the world vs. what product is available for their use. The Early Majority won’t try something until someone else tries it first.

Law of Diffusion of Innovation

Law of Diffusion of Innovation

With LAUNCH, we’re in the business of accelerating innovation. We operate right in the middle of the 2.5% zone on the curve. We look for innovations (and their innovators) to nurture, refine, and then showcase to Early Adopters (the LAUNCH Council). We started inside Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and built out. We know WHY we created LAUNCH. Then we figured out HOW to implement the concept, and WHAT the product is.

Simon Sinek: Why

Simon Sinek: Golden Circle

Once you strip away the Innovator selection and presentation prep, the Council selection and event logistics, the Accelerator follow-up post forum, what’s left is the LAUNCH Fellowship of Innovators. We’re creating space at the far left of the Diffusion of Innovation curve where we can live and play. It’s the place where we believe we can make biggest impact on the future of this world. That’s WHY!

Todd: LAUNCH wants YOU!

Todd says, "Innovators, We want YOU!"

Here are a few pics of West Coast LAUNCHpad Salon that I snapped with my iphone. Enjoy! (We certainly did.)


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Crosspost on GovLoop and OpenNASA.


Filed under federal government, humanitarian aid, LAUNCH, leadership, NASA, technology

LAUNCH: Innovation Matchmaking

Vestergaard Frandsen Lifestraw

Vestergaard Frandsen LifeStraw

On Friday, the New York Times Opinionator blog featured a story about “Green Strategies for the Poorest.” The author, Tina Rosenberg, talks about the carbon credit model used by Vestergaard Frandsen for the LifeStraw products, and how they got the idea from Manna Energy. In the carbon credit market, entities that reduce carbon emissions can receive credits that can be sold as offsets to offending (think polluting) entities.

“Use of carbon markets could be a breakthrough.” Tina Rosenberg

What the Opinionator story failed to point out is HOW Vestergaard Frandsen and Manna Energy connected in the first place — LAUNCH: Water!

Our LAUNCH:Water sustainability forum in March brought together these two great forces for good: Vestergaard Frandsen and Manna Energy. Mikkel Vestergaard served as a LAUNCH Council member and Ron Garan’s Manna Energy was selected as one of the ten LAUNCH innovations. Mikkel liked Manna’s business model and signed them to a contract shortly after the LAUNCH:Water forum.

Ron Garan LAUNCH:Water

I feel like a proud parent. I hope this is one of many success stories that will start bubbling out of the innovation soup pot — LAUNCH.

So what are LAUNCH sustainability forums? What makes them unique?

We think the magic is the process itself.  We created LAUNCH as TED with teeth an innovation mashup.

First, we identify ten innovative, disruptive ideas that show great promise to make tangible progress toward solving sustainability challenges our society faces here on Earth.

The sustainability issues we face on our home planet mirror what we face when we leave the protection of our Earth’s atmosphere. The hostile environment of space forces us to be creative in how we support human life on short and long-duration missions. On Earth, we may take it for granted that our resources will be available when we need them. But can we make that assumption?

We hosted the inaugural LAUNCH:Water in March, and just recently hosted LAUNCH:Health in October. We give each Innovator the opportunity to present a 15 minute overview of their innovation to a diverse group of thought leaders.

LAUNCH Process:

Our LAUNCH team works closely with each innovator prior to the Forum to ensure the presentation tells a compelling story.

LAUNCH team prepping Innovator Dieterich Lawson
LAUNCH team prepping Innovator Dieterich Lawson

We provide each innovator with a slick video to help sell their stories. NIKE brings in a team to film each Innovator’s story, which becomes part of the Innovator’s portfolio, along with the Forum presentation.

NIKE LAUNCH:Health film studio
NIKE LAUNCH:Health film studio

The presentation to LAUNCH Council is U-streamed live so the general public can participate virtually. The U-stream videos are archived on

Innovator David Van Sickle, Asthmapolis
Innovator David Van Sickle, Asthmapolis

Following the presentations, we facilitate small group impact rotations where LAUNCH Council focus on each innovator one-on-one (or ten-on-one, to be more precise).

Impact Rotations where LAUNCH Council delve into Innovations
Impact Rotations where LAUNCH Council delve into Innovations

Streamlined, solution-driven impact rotations are the heart of the problem-solving conversations at LAUNCH.

With five 30-minute impact rotations for each Innovator, our LAUNCH Council give insightful comments and recommendations about where they see each Innovation fitting in the market, and how to best proceed on the path toward success.

LAUNCH:Health Innovator Aydogan Ozcan told me LAUNCH was worth more than a year of technical conferences rolled up in one weekend. He couldn’t believe the thought leaders around the table were willing to focus total attention on him for two+ hours, when he normally had to wait next to an elevator just for the chance to speak to them for a stolen minute at a typical conference.

We’ll keep working hard to improve the process. I look forward to more stories in the news about the difference our innovators are making in the lives of others as the years go by. Through the LAUNCH sustainability forums, I get to be an Innovation Matchmaker. Not a bad title for my business card. Hmmm. Time to reorder….

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Filed under Africa, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, LAUNCH, leadership, NASA, poverty, space, technology

World Changers

I’ve been reading “The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World” by Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund. Visionary founder of Manna Energy and Fragile Oasis (and Astronaut) Ron Garan told me about the book.

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

The Blue Sweater is a heartfelt, heartbreaking story of Jacqueline’s incredible journey to create economic independence for poverty-stricken African women, and her relationships with survivors the Rwandan genocide in the mid-1990’s. I find the story both uplifting and discouraging. Uplifting because of the author’s success in creating innovative investment strategies to help relieve poverty. Discouraging because I don’t feel I’ve done enough in my life to help others.

All my life, I’ve wanted one thing:

To Change The World!

I want to make a difference. To contribute. To make life better for others. Most days, however, I feel lucky just to survive the drama created by others, and smile in the midst of it. I often forget to be thankful for my job, a roof over my head, reliable transportation, running water, electricity, plumbing, and food. Think of all the people around the world who don’t have these basic necessities we take for granted.

Though I always thought I would be a missionary or serve in the Peace Corps or do something noble and extraordinary, I’ve somehow served my entire career as a federal bureaucrat. We bureaucrats take a great deal of abuse in the press, but I see the role differently than most. In my mind, Civil Servant = Missionary for Public Good. No, I’ll never be a Jacqueline Novogratz, but at least I can help create Public Good — even in tiny quantities.

Take our LAUNCH sustainability forums, for instance. We recently hosted the LAUNCH:Health at the Kennedy Space Center.

LAUNCH:Health Group Portrait with Space Shuttle Discovery

LAUNCH:Health Group Portrait with Space Shuttle Discovery

For me, LAUNCH is an opportunity to make this world a better place while demonstrating the relevance between life on Earth and the extreme environment of space.

We created LAUNCH as a problem-solving conversation around disruptive innovations that might make a difference in our world. The LAUNCH forums give thought leaders a venue for evaluating creative ideas among peers and joining in collaborative, solution-driven discussions.

Here are tweets about our LAUNCH:Health Innovators.

LAUNCH Innovator David Van Sickle
LAUNCH Innovator Gijsbert van de Wijdeven
LAUNCH Innovator Erick Toledo
LAUNCH Innovator Ben Reis
LAUNCH Innovator Aydogan Ozcan
LAUNCH Innovator Samuel Sia
LAUNCH Innovator Dieterich Lawson
LAUNCH Innovator Matt Sanders
LAUNCH Innovator Ramesh Raskar
LAUNCH Innovator Jonathan Attwood

One of our LAUNCH Council, Simon Waddington, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Burrill and Company, had this to say of the LAUNCH:Health experience.

“An extraordinarily productive event where innovators have an intense interaction with a diverse, high level mix of companies, entrepreneurs, agencies, marketers to produce high impact feedback at no cost to the innovators.”

Maybe someday we’ll have a Blue Sweater story of our own about the LAUNCH Innovators we’ve helped propel toward success. Maybe someday we’ll see real change in how we live our lives on Earth because of what NASA brings to the problem-solving conversations. Maybe, just maybe.

And in this very tiny way, I get to help change the world — one innovation at a time!

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Filed under Africa, astronaut, culture, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, poverty, space, technology

LAUNCH: Health…FINally!

This is it! The week we host LAUNCH: Health, the second in our series of sustainability incubators.

LAUNCH: Health

NASA partnered with USAID, Department of State, and NIKE to create the LAUNCH initiative to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to global challenges. Through LAUNCH, NASA can host a global conversation about innovative solutions. We’re problem-solvers, after all. That’s what we do best.

Here’s a quote from our LAUNCH: Health challenge:

Sustaining quality of life on Earth and in space requires transformative advances in science and technology, along with new models, policies and behaviors that will guide human development. The search for innovative technology solutions to ensure healthy astronauts orbiting the planet mirrors healthcare challenges faced by providers throughout the world. The same requirements for simple, rugged, ultra portable, low power devices to provide remote diagnostic capability serves dual needs for humans living within the extreme environments on and off the planet.

We put out an open call through InnoCentive to search for solutions. We augmented the call with an internal search for innovations that might not bubble up through InnoCentive process. Meet our ten Health Innovators:

David Van Sickle, Asthmapolis: a devise to track and measure a patient’s self-treatment for asthma by attaching a GPS receiver and rechargeable battery to a standard inhaler. Can also be used to monitor air quality….

Gijsbert van de Wijdeven, Bioneedle: a biodegradable needle that dissolves under the skin releasing the vaccine, leaving behind no waste products. No medical professional is required to deliver the injection, which is inserted with an air compressor.

Erick Toledo, The Chlorine Bank: a grocery-story-style supply chain network to provide low-cost chlorine-based water purification products to rural communities.

Dieterich Lawson, FrontLine SMS Medic: text messaging solutions that connect doctors and patient medical records with remotely-located healthcare workers and their patients.

Ben Reis, HealthySocial/Food Hero: a social media-based game that fights obesity by teaching children about healthy eating and exercise as they care for a “troll” that can only perform when healthy.

Matt Sanders, Imetrikus Medi Compass Connect: networked technology to connect chronic pain patients with their doctors on a regular basis through home monitoring devices connected via computer, modem, or smart phone.

Aydogan Ozcan, LUCAS: A miniaturized microscope attached to a cell phone that detects parasites and bacteria in blood and water in remote locations.

Samuel Sia, mChip: Lab-in-a-box. A handheld device that can analyze diseases — such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases — in 15 minutes from a drop of blood.

Ramesh Raskar, NETRA: portable eye doctor (minus the physician). A small measuring device that administers an eye test and determines necessary correction with the touch of a button.

Jonathan Attwood, ZamZee: a handheld device for kids to encourage and record movement, and reward physical activity with virtual shopping credits.

We’ll be streaming the presentations live. Stay tuned for details on website.

We’re also pleased to welcome our LAUNCH Council to the Kennedy Space Center. You can find their bios on the website. They represent diverse backgrounds from entrepreneurs to scientists and engineers to venture capitalists to leaders in government, media and business, who will help to guide the innovators as they move forward toward successful implementation of their products and ideas.

Our hope is that they see begin to see “space” in a new light as an integral part of the global sustainability conversation.

LAUNCH: Water was our first forum back in March. We have Mark Tonkin, one of our LAUNCH: Water Innovators, coming back to talk with the group this weekend. We’re hoping to bring in Astronaut Ron Garan for a quick hello. Ron, you may recall, was one of our LAUNCH: Water Innovators for his humanitarian effort to bring clean water to children in Africa through Manna Energy. He’s down at the Space Shuttle launch, and is one of our STS-133 Tweetup speakers.

Yes, it’s going to be a busy, amazing week! We’re also hosting 150 enthusiastic STS-133 tweeters at the press site, AND, let’s not forget the Space Shuttle launch inself, which is what this fuss is all about in the first place.

The STS-133 crew will leave the boundaries of Earth onboard Space Shuttle Discovery for her final flight on Monday, November 1 at 4:40 p.m. EST.

STS-133 crew

STS-133 crew at Launch Pad A

God speed STS-133!

If you want to participate in LAUNCH: Health, we have several options for you. You can watch the Innovator presentations via U-Stream. You can also interact with us through NASA Mind Mapr, cousin of NASA Buzzroom. Mind Mapr offers web-based virtual participation for you by allowing you to create an account to log into the system to add comments or pose questions. You can also follow the LAUNCH twitter account.

Best of HEALTH to you all — LAUNCH: Health, that is. 🙂

Crosspost on OpenNASA and GovLoop.


Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, NASA, poverty, social media, technology

NASA Solves Problems Above AND Below Earth

A team from NASA’s Langley Research Center, led by Clint Cragg, helped design the escape pod to rescue 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 feet below the surface since August 5.

“Putting teams together and getting the best talent from across the agency, that’s what we’re pretty good at.” Clint Cragg

Chilean officials turned to NASA for expertise in dealing with humans who live and work in confined spaces (though Space Station is now the size of a five bedroom house with two bathrooms, a gym, and office/lab space). Not too shabby.

Clint Cragg's pic from Chile

Rescue site in Copiapo, Chile. Credit: Clint Cragg

Clint, along with NASA doctors Michael Duncan and J.D. Polk, and psychologist Al Holland, met with officials in Chile to consider options. Back at home, Clint pulled together a tiger team to look at extraction capsule designs, which contributed to the final design.

I have to say: watching the miners lifted to safety, one by one, on their journey to family and fresh air, feels like a testament to the Gene KranzFailure in Not an Option” mentality that the Apollo 13 movie made famous.

NASA's Gene Kranz

NASA's Gene Kranz

The human spirit is infinitely resourceful.

I think NASA embodies the limitless nature of what we can accomplish if we bring the right minds and attitudes to the table. We solve problems…against all odds. Today, we see evidence that we not only tackle challenges off the planet, but below the surface as well. How cool is that?

Bravo Clint and NASA team. You guys ROCKet!

And welcome back to the land of sunshine, miners of Chile. Breathe deeply. Today is a new day!

Related articles:

WKYT News: October 12, 2010

iStock Analyst: October 12, 2010

Space Coalition: October 10, 2010

Daily Press: October 10, 2010

AOLNews: October 10, 2010 September 22, 2010 September 9, 2010

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Filed under Earth, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, space, technology

Prague Highlights

I attended the International Astronautical Congress last week in Prague, Czech Republic. I attended the Vancouver Congress years ago, but as an exhibit staffer, not a presenter. This was my first time to present papers. Quite an experience.

I presented three papers in four sessions (one with co-authors Joanna Scorsone and Angela Triano) — all about sharing “space” in non-traditional ways.  I must say, trying to find sessions to attend was like navigating a college course catalog. You can browse the IAC author’s index.  Quite extensive, impressive, and absolutely overwhelming. I had trouble finding my own sessions.

Space Expectations: Involving the Public in Space Activities.Rise Above the White Noise

Calling Planet Earth — Space Outreach to the General Public.Rise Above the White Noise

Water from Space: Societal, Educational and Cultural Aspects.LAUNCH:Water — Accelerating Innovation for a Sustainable Future

To Boldly Go — Space Station Education and Outreach. “SpaceSmart: Shifting Public Perceptions of Space”

I’ve posted “Rise Above the White Noise” on SlideShare. I’ll post the others too.

After each session, we had amazing conversations — sharing ideas and programs. I’m still sorting and processing. Here are a few highlights.

My fav presentation was European Space Agency’s Mars WebCam project. You’ll just have to check it out. The best example of “participatory exploration” that I’ve seen. They turned an unused mission camera back on to take photos of Mars. They offer the data to the public to process. The Mars WebCam folks post the “processed” images back on their site. Quite wonderful. They’ve created an amazing, enthusiastic community of Mars-watchers, who participate in the mission voluntarily with hundreds of hours of processing time to their credit. You can read the Mars WebCam blog. (Congrats on your shout out for the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2010!)

I spent a delightful lunch with a Canadian teacher who wants to create a classroom version of LAUNCH:Water. We talked about the process for planning, how we pick the topics, background research, innovator selection, thought-leader selection, presentation format, impact rotation conversations, and follow-up. I’m so thrilled to see her move from concept to implementation in her school setting. If this works, we’ll spin-off our first LAUNCH x — which was always our plan.

A representative from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute shared his excitement about space. He visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a decade ago and has been waiting all this time to take his family back. He finally got the opportunity recently. He’s still glowing from the experience. He’s busy creating his own little bit of space paradise in Korea, and wants to use some of our space outreach activities to help the public experience the thrill and drama of space.

The UK-based EADS Astrium CubeSat guys are eager to learn from us on how to use social media to build enthusiastic communities around satellite opportunities. Lots of CubeSat excitement, btw. I saw a number of CubeSat presentations. They need launch opportunities to prove their concepts.

The German-based EADS Astrium folks want to share ideas on outreach and community-building tools.

I loved seeing the Spanish-language website,, presented by a professor from Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya on behalf of his Argentine colleagues. The site translates NASA mission updates and programming into Spanish and adds commentary by volunteer Spanish-speaking reporters. Well done. We hope to work more closely for future missions.

A representative from the China Academy of Space Technology wants to learn from us on how to reach out to the public. They don’t engage in “outreach” yet, but he is eager to understand how we make personal connections outside employees of the space sector. He liked Buzzroom, our NASA conversation collector, as well our newest social media note taking tool, Mind Mapr, which we’ll debut at the LAUNCH: Health sustainability forum.

I spoke on several occasions with a number of representatives in the South Africa space community. With Daughter #2 Steph in South Africa, I feel the need to touch all things related to her life. I was amazed to see plans for their new Space Port in Cape Town. They are forming a South African Space Agency. So cool!

I bartered two NASA pins for a South African delegation scarf, and wore it proudly!

South African Space Delegation Scarf

I’m excited about next year’s International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town. Hopefully, I’ll be able to present papers again. Fingers crossed.

A note from our sponsors. Prague is an amazing city. Ancient, but urban. Beautiful, but worn out. The language sounds quite close to Russian, but the city feels more medieval than what I’ve seen in Moscow. Our hotel, the Holiday Inn, sat on top of the castle ruins of the Bohemian Empire. Walking to dinner every evening was a visual feast, with churches and gorgeous architecture all around us.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul next to our hotel.

I must say, the search for bars in Prague took on a totally new meaning. By “bars,” I mean wifi and data roaming hotspots. The more “connection bars” the better. Picture us waving our iPhones in the air to get the best juice. Totally comical. Once we found connections, all conversation ceased. Heads down and fingers flying, we read and responded to as many email as possible in the shortest amount of time.

At times, we put down our digital devices and simply soaked in the culture…and an occasional serenade. (I have a few video recordings of our adorable Czech accordion player.)

UFlecku Accordion Player

UFlecku Accordion Player

The greatest highlight of this conference was the amazing opportunity to experience Prague with Daughter #1, Carol.

My daughters come from a Czech, Germanic heritage. (I’m more a a Celtic mutt with Scottish Irish roots mixed with English and French.) Pretty powerful and moving to learn the history of the Bohemia (I had no idea it was a place — I thought it was a state of mind) while walking on the cobblestone streets where my daughters’ ancestors may have walked. Czech phrases my mother-in-law taught me when the girls were little kept popping out of distant memories. We even found a little Czech bakery with poppy seed kolaches–a HUGE deal in Texas.

Thank you Prague for being such a wonderful host.

Traditional Czech Pastry
Traditional Czech Pastry in Street Vendor Carts


Filed under Africa, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, social media, space, technology, water

Is Social Responsibility Innate or Nurtured?

I came from a business lunch today with a NASA colleague and Mikkel Vestergaard of Europe-based Vestergaard Frandsen, a unique company that manufactures disease-control textiles. I met Mikkel at our March LAUNCH: Water forum at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mikkel served as one of our LAUNCH Council members.

Mikkel Vestergaard of Vestergaard Frandsen.

Mikkel Vestergaard

Quick back story for Mikkel. He comes from a textile-manufacturing family in Denmark. At 19, he sought adventure in Africa where he founded a trucking company. Political instability sent him packing back to the family business, but his experience ignited a passion for Africa. In a few years, he turned the company from uniform supplier to humanitarian relief products. Pretty amazing story. WIRED featured his story in April.

Passion Statement from the Vestergaard Frandsen website:

By innovating products and concepts focusing on preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases, we turn our commitment into action. We innovate for the developing world, rather than developing products for wealthier regions, and then trying to adapt to those who actually need them the most.

Mikkel is in town participating in the Women Deliver conference. We were fortunate to catch him on the run between events. We’re busy planning our next LAUNCH sustainability event. Mikkel will be working with us to make it an even greater success than the LAUNCH: Water forum.

I write this today because I’m stirred by his commitment to make the world a better place by focusing his “profit for a purpose” business strategy toward the creation of innovative “life-saving products for the developing world.” He cares about people in need, and he’s poised his company to take swift action in partnership with government, non-profit and profit entities.

Zambian Village

Zambian Village

His heart for Africa touches close to our family. My aunt and uncle serve as missionaries in Zambia, and my youngest daughter, Steph, moves to South Africa in the next few weeks.

Mikkel asked how I feel about Steph’s decision. My answer, as always, “I’m thrilled.”

Steph will spend the next year (or more) working with the Bethany House Trust victim empowerment program.  Bethany House was established in 1998 to provide shelter, primary health services and education to young people in crisis. Steph, who just received her graduate degree in Community Counseling, will counsel kids who have untreated trauma. She specializes in Play Therapy.

Bethany House Trust

Bethany House Trust

So my question: Is social responsibility innate or nurtured?

What makes some of us comfortable with a cosy little routine that never changes? What makes some of us rush out in the world to make change happen?

I’m dying to be one of those out there changing the world. Life placed me here  at home helping others go out into the world. Some work with villagers out in the bush country. Some type on a computer in a government cubby hole. (Yeah, that second description would be my reality.) But, how cool for me to rub shoulders with a cool world-changer like Mikkel, and support my daughter as she reaches out to help those who can’t help themselves.

Bethany House: Toddler Living area.

Bethany House: Toddler Living area.

With our new LAUNCH sustainability forums, I get to help change the world from right here in DC. With our ten disruptive innovations, we hopefully throw a life-line to our planet. One small step…. Oh, I won’t even go there.

Whether or not the desire for social responsibility is born or grown, we should nurture it where we can. Feed it. Water it. Prune it. The needs are too great to be born by the few. Each of us can find small (or HUGE) ways to contribute. Be creative. Make it your own — like Mikkel did with his family’s business.

If you’re out there changing the world already, send me postcards (or twitpics). I’d love to travel along virtually. God speed!

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Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, NASA

Launch Water Day 2

Quick Recap of Launch Water Day 2:

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith: Verticrop. “Large-Scale Vertical Hydroponic Ag System

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith

Innovator Stephen Kennedy Smith

VertiCrop water savings

VertiCrop water savings

Innovator Shahram Javey: Aquacue. “Water: Tapped and Untapped

Innovator Shahram Javey

Innovator Shahram Javey



Innovator Dr. Marc van Iersel: “Affordable Soil Moisture Sensors

Dr. Marc Van Iersel

Dr. Marc van Iersel

Soil Moisture Sensors

Soil Moisture Sensors

Innovator Dr. Julien J. Harou: “HydroPlatform

Innovator Dr. Julien Harou

Innovator Dr. Julien Harou



Astronaut Ron Garan: “Manna Energy Projects in Rwanda” — on his own time, not as an official NASA rep.

Astronaut Ron Garan

Astronaut Ron Garan

Manna Energy Status

Manna Energy Status

Manna Energy Carbon Credits

Manna Energy Carbon Credits

Innovator “Speed Dating” Impact Rotations:

Launch Water Day 2 Impact Rotations

Launch Water Day 2 Impact Rotations

Before heading off to the reception and dinner at the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden, the amazing Dr. Anil Gupta spoke on “Water, Wisdom and Well Being: Learning from Grassroots.” He told a wonderful story about the need to empty ourselves before we can be filled. Great advice for our innovators as they met with thought leaders in the impact rotations. We realized, after the fact, that he should have been our kick-off speaker to inspire us with humility and the possibilities of the smallest kernal of innovation at the grassroots level. I had the great fortune to sit with him at dinner. Now I can’t wait to travel to India to “walk” with him through the villages and honor the small innovations he finds among the people.

KSC Rocket Garden

KSC Rocket Garden

NASA’s Mr. Space Station, Mark Uhran, spoke to us at dinner on the topic of “Water Far and Near.” I’ll post a link as soon as we get his remarks up on the website. I was inspired and awed by his remarks on the importance of water in the universe and why it’s important for NASA to follow the “water of life.”

“Water lies at the very foundation of NASA’s reason for being. The search for life in the universe is a search for water, becase life, at least as we know it, cannot exist without water.” NASA’s Mark Uhran.

Thanks Mark! Wow!

We capped off the evening (and Mark’s talk) with a toast to water — with shot glasses of recycled waste water from NASA trials at the Johnson Space Center. NASA’s Marybeth Edeen brought the water with her from Houston. Marybeth, you ROCKet!

Recycled Water Shots!

Recycled Water Shots! Here's to our astronauts who drink this every day.

Here’s to WATER — on and OFF the planet!

Crosspost on OpenNASA.


Filed under Africa, AIDs, astronaut, Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, poverty, space

LAUNCH Water Day 1

After working on the LAUNCH:Water concept for the past year, we finally kicked it off yesterday — along with our cool new Nike-designed website.

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

We started the day with Lori Garver, NASA’s Deputy Administrator and LAUNCH Water Host.

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

Majora Carter: Welcome

Peter Gleick, President and Co-Founder Pacific Institute, “21st Century Water: The Role of Technology and Innovation”

Innovator Mark Tonkin, DTI-r: “Subsurface Vapor Transfer Irrigation

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Andrew Tinka, UC Berkeley: “Floating Sensor Network

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Ashok Gadgil, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “ElectroChemical Arsenic Remediation

Innovator Ashok Gadgi

Innovator Ashok Gadgil

Innovator Mark Sobsey, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: “Low Cost Bacterial Water Test

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Lili Anna Peresa, “The Comprehensive Approach of ONE DROP: Water for All, All for Water”

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

Partner Head Table

Partner Head Table

Each of the innovators rotated through focused discussion sessions to help shape their success strategy. I like to call it: Innovator Speed Dating.

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Impact Rotations

Impact rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

So many incredible stories to share. Stay tuned.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.


Filed under Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, space