Tag Archives: Canada

Nobel Peace Prize Orbits Earth

When NASA’s Alan Ladwig spoke at the International Space University Symposium, “Public Face on Space,” he suggested the International Space Station partnership deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

What an absolutely BRILLIANT idea!

Orbiting Outpost

Nobel-deserving International Orbiting Outpost

Think about it. Space agencies  in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan worked together for years planning an orbiting laboratory in space. After the fall of the iron curtain, Russia — a former adversary — joined the partnership. Unprecedented. Our Cold War rival now our friend?

Our quest to move beyond the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere lifted us high above political, cultural and language barriers that divide us on the surface of this planet.

15 nations came together IN PEACE to design, build, launch, and assemble our orbiting outpost — 22o miles overhead 24/7 orbiting every 90  minutes at 17,500 mph.

15 countries came together to build the International Space Station

Senior government officials from 15 countries agreed to partnership.

Here is a portrait of senior government officials from our international partner countries who came to Washington D.C.  on Jan. 29, 1998 to establish the framework of cooperation upon with the partnership was formed — representatives of Russia, Japan, Canada, and participating countries of the European Space Agency (ESA), including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

And it wasn’t easy. Just ask anyone who worked in the Space Station program.

I was actually hired to come work in the Space Station program back in 1985. At the time, Station was but a series of drawings, hopes and dreams — not to mention crossed fingers. In a staff meeting not long ago, Bill Gerstenmaier made a comment during a Space Shuttle mission that really struck me. He told us how amazed he was that all the assembly details that kept him up at night over the years came together flawlessly. It’s pretty incredible that we assembled ON ORBIT all the hardware, cables, and software built at locations all around the world by workers in multiple languages.

So what about Alan’s  Peace Prize idea? How would that work? Curious, I looked up the Nobel Peace Prize nomination process. You may not be surprised to learn that only a select few can submit proposals. No self-nominations. Snap.

According to the Nobel Prize website:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection of eligible candidates and the choice of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The Committee is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament). The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not in Stockholm, Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the Economics Prize are awarded.

Nobel Peace Prize process

Nobel Peace Prize process-- Credit: NobelPrize.org

So, from what I can tell, we have until September. We need to find a qualified nominator who believes the Space Station international partnership — that successfully designed, built, launched, assembled, and continues to operate our amazing Peace Laboratory in Low Earth Orbit — is worthy of nomination. Right?

Peace signHey, what about our Norwegian partners? Surely they have qualified friends, wouldn’t you think? If you know anyone who fits the bill, give them a shout for us. You can help us spread the good word – two words, actually: Peace Prize!

It’s amazingly noble — this international partnership in space. Why shouldn’t it be Nobel too?

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Filed under Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, space

Southern Africa: Story Behind the Eyes

Growing up as a kid in Texas, I remember trick-or-treating for UNICEF, an organization that helps at -risk children in developing countries. We collected donations instead of candy. Going to school in Nova Scotia following high school, I organized a 40-mile walk-a-thon to benefit UNICEF. Only three of us completed the forty miles. I only remember dehydration and an emergency room visit upon finishing. The rest is a blur. I have no recollection, what-so-ever, of how much we earned for our efforts. Probably not much.

All that seems so long ago. UNICEF never went away. At-risk children never went away.

Perhaps I lost sight of the cause once my own life got complicated.

I’m looking at it now though. My daughter’s passion for children orphaned by the AIDs pandemic focused my attention again.

Girls dressed in Sunday best.

Girls dressed in Sunday best.

According to UNICEF:

“About 29,000 children under the age of five –  21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes.”

Boys in the bush.

Boys in the bush.

The UNICEF website cites frightening statistics for the southern part of Africa:

“The number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. This, along with only modest progress fighting malaria, means the threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.”

I’m just now researching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015. Yes, I know. I haven’t been paying attention.

  1. End Poverty and Hunger
  2. Universal Education
  3. Gender Equality
  4. Child Health
  5. Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS
  7. Environmental Sustainability
  8. Global Partnership
Kids on street in Zambia

Kids on street in Zambia

Goal 6, combatting HIV/AIDS, directly relates to my daughter’s passion for the alarming number of children orphaned by the great killer.  Projections point to 18 million parentless children in Sub-Saharan Africa by next year. These children must assume the parental role of finding food and caring for their siblings, forcing many to drop out of school.

In South Africa, the statistics on the number of individuals, of all ages, living with HIV/AIDs — simply staggering.

This girl's got spunk!

This girl's got spunk!

Everywhere we went during our time in South Africa, the topic came up. Parents are dying. If family members aren’t available to care for the children, the social services steps in. But often, the children slip through the cracks because their parents never informed the schools of their illness. The children simply stop coming to school. As we learned from our interview with the school principal in Soweto Township, she often serves as a detective/social worker at times, trying to determine where the child is, once he disappears from class.

I really started this blogpost to show you the faces of the children we met. Somehow, I felt compelled to add a bit about their world. I don’t know their individual stories to share with you, only the aggregate.

Just look into their eyes. I’ll let the children speak for themselves.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

Fighting for the shot

Fighting for the shot

South Africa school uniform

South Africa school uniform

Simply gorgeous

Simply gorgeous

I'm getting a HUGE hug!

I'm getting a HUGE hug!

Now THAT's a pose!

Now THAT's a pose!

Such a tiny one.

Such a tiny one.
He elbowed everyone to get near me.

He elbowed everyone to get near me.

Hopeful, yet measured

Hopeful, yet measured


My daughter is taking a pic of me taking a pic...

My daughter is taking a pic of me taking a pic...

Best friends

Best friends

Full of promise

Full of promise

Not sure of me...

What a dumplin'

She never once smiled

She never once smiled

Play buddies

Play buddies

Thumbs up

Thumbs up

He wanted a "sweetie."

He wanted a "sweetie."

She's not sure about me yet.

She's not sure about me yet.

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Filed under Africa, AIDs, poverty

One Drop of Water for Space Acrobat, One Giant Bite Out of Poverty?

This week’s announcement by Space Adventures that Guy Laliberté will be Canada’s first private citizen in space really captivated my imagination.

Fire-breathing, stilt-walking Guy Laliberté is the founder of Cirque du Soleil. Repeat after me: CIRQUE du SOLEIL! No really. CIRQUE du SOLEIL!!! Incredibly talented individuals performing amazingly awe-inspiring feats that defy the imagination. (Hmmm. Does that sound like NASA?)

So here’s the deal:

For years, I’ve tried — unsuccessfully – to connect with folks at Cirque du Soleil to collaborate on a “Space-themed” traveling show. I can only imagine what a Cirque du Soleil Space Show might look like, but it could be no less than FABulous. NASA content shaped by wildly inventive interpretations? Oh, I’d buy a ticket. Wouldn’t you?

How ironic. While I’ve been dreaming of a traveling “Space on Earth” Cirque du Soleil show, their founder has been dreaming of traveling from Earth to space. So much so, he purchased a seat with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, to ride a Russian Soyuz up to the International Space Station.  I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised. He’s accustomed to defying gravity here on Earth on his stilts. Why not extend his reach? (And Guy, no FIRE-BREATHING on Station, PLEASE!)

Now here’s another cool fact that excites me. His 12-day visit to Station is billed as the first social/humanitarian mission in space. His cause: clean water through his foundation, One Drop.

“Guy Laliberté’s POETIC SOCIAL MISSION in Space is a unique opportunity to share information about water-related issues with the world. His messages will spread ONE DROP’s dream of “Water for all, all for water.”

Some of you may wonder why we should care about water. After all, 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Easy access to drinkable water, that’s the issue.

Here’s a quick overview: Less than 5% of the Earth’s water supply is freshwater and 1.7 billion people have no direct access to that 5%, according to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. In addition, fresh water is polluted in many developing countries. Guy’s One Drop website states: “90% of sewage is dumped into the water untreated.” The World Bank links water and poverty. Their 2006 report points out that inaccessibility to safe water traps developing countries in a cycle of poverty. People in 40% of the world in 80 countries suffer from extreme water shortages, hitting women the hardest. UNICEF estimates an average woman in rural areas can spend “one-quarter to one-third of her time fetching water” which leaves little time for school.  

Sobering. Shocking. Humbling.

And here I have a choice every day for my fill of tap, bottled, or sparking water, depending on how much I’m willing to pay. Now, let’s be clear, I’m absolutely unequivocally UNqualified to weigh in on this subject. I can, however, offer this thought:

Water is crucial for life ON and OFF this planet.

At NASA, we’ve been working water issues for decades. Traveling long distances in space means we can’t rely on re-supply. We have to carry or generate our own water. Exciting news! NASA recently reached a major milestone on Station: COMPLETE waste-water reclamation (including the dreaded liquid…urine). We have a spiffy new system to process six gallons of crew urine in six hours.

Distasteful, yes. But not bad-tasting. Really!

Expedition 20 astronaut Mike Barratt reports that Station’s new recycled water tastes like what you would expect in store-bought bottled water. Here’s how it works. Our technology onboard Station collects crew urine from the US toilet, boils off the water (to separate it from the briny nasty stuff we don’t keep), captures the vapor and mixes it with air condensation collections, and filters any impurities. Clean, purified water ready for drinking. Yum.

And who knows, our recycled water technology could be coming to a home or office near you! We bring you space technology, you apply it on Earth. Could be as common as your average water heater in the next decade, or sooner.

I’m excited about the world’s newest private citizen in space. Maybe, just maybe, we can make progress toward a cool “Cirque du Soleil-Orbital High,” based on Guy’s personal experience in space. Even more important, perhaps we can leverage NASA technology and know-how to help One Drop meet it’s goal,

Water for all, all for water.

Hey! It can happen. We’re NASA. We make the impossible possible!

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Filed under NASA, space

Space: Humanity’s Playground

Today something amazing happened. Did you notice? A Canadian, Russian, and European launched on a Russian rocket from the Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia headed 220 miles in the air to dock with an orbiting outpost built by five partner nations representing 15 member countries. Waiting to greet them? An American, Japanese, Russian crew. We listened to Mission Control chatter in Russian with English translation.

Hey! What is exactly going on here?

In the ghost of NASA past, we successfully reached the Moon to compete with the evil Soviet Union. We just unearthed a mountain of documents from the Father of our space program, Wernher Von Braun. Included among his 10-15,000 papers, a letter to President Kennedy outlining the reasons we should go to the Moon. All about those dastardly HammerAndCycle-ites, the Communists!

Fast forward to today, we’re good buddies with the Russians. We overcame our differences to shape something important for humanity—an off-planet habititat where we can learn how to live in a hostile environment with minimum comforts of home. Heck, we even take turns with the Russians to “Command” the International Space Station. Yes, you read this right. Expedition Mission Commanders rotate between an American Astronaut and Russian Cosmonaut each Expedition mission.

What a milestone for us today! With this launch to Station, we increase the population from three to six who live/work/play on orbit traveling at a speed of 17,500 mph around the planet 24/7 in 90-minute orbits. For the first time, all our partner space agencies will be represented on Station: NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

My take-away from this amazing moment: We find ways to get along when we want badly enough to get going! No cultural or ideological barrier can stop us if the need is great enough. 

Any partnership is only an invitation away. Lead the pack. Make the first move.

And let’s face it, we can’t explore the cosmos on the back of the tax-payers from any one nation. Space is humanity’s playground. My prediction: in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be partnering with China, Korea, and Iran. (After all, they like to launch things too.)

Wouldn’t it be SO cool to create the Human Space Agency and wear an Earth Badge? Maybe in a few tomorrows from today we’ll see it come to pass. Today proves we’re on the right path with our Station partners. We’re proving we can work together to do this thing called space. 

Humanity’s destiny is to expand our knowledge of the unknown. Earthlings, UNITE!

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Filed under NASA, space