Why I Left NASA
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen any sign of life. As I write this, I am somewhere between Comfort, TX and Fort Stockton on an open stretch of I-10 (I’m not at the wheel).
In some respects, I’m en route to a new chapter in my life, but for the most part I’m embarking on a continuation of the call to action I felt after my first journey to space: a call to help spread a unique perspective of our home, this place we call Earth.
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 be able to share a unique perspective of our planet that I believe can have profound, positive effects on the trajectory of our global society and our world. I left NASA so I can share that perspective full time.
Everything I have done since leaving NASA was with the motive of communicating what I have come to call the Orbital Perspective. I’ve written the book, “The Orbital Perspective,” and I am working on the full-length feature documentary, “Orbital.” I am also contributing efforts to launch various startups (including the first civilian spaceflight training academy), and teaching the on-line course “Introduction to the Orbital Perspective” at Drexel University. What all these endeavors have in common, and seek to achieve, is to 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 a transformative 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 World View. For the first time since leaving NASA I will be able to make use of my years of experience as a test pilot and fighter pilot 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.
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 that 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.
In addition to bringing people to the edge of space for a transformative experience, I’m also excited about the payloads and experiments we will bring to the upper atmosphere and space environment. There are large gaps in humanity’s knowledge of the upper atmosphere that limit our ability to model climate and weather patterns and trends. 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. I am particularly looking forward to working with organizations that are striving to provide internet access to remote and impoverished communities around the world. This is a passion of mine because I believe we need to bring the 5 billion creative and problem- solving minds currently without internet access into the global conversation. Through this, I believe we will find solutions we’ve never dreamed of — come from places we’ve never heard of.
I am excited about the implications for disaster response. One of the most critical things that can be lost in a serious storm or natural disaster is communications. Worldview Balloon communication platforms can be launched in response to (or in anticipation of) a natural disaster to provide communications capabilities to first responders and those affected — saving lives in the process.
I am delighted to join a team that 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.
2016 will be an exciting year for World View and the commercial spaceflight industry. I look forward to our upcoming flight tests and, in particular, our first crewed flight.
What I most look forward to is people experiencing a new perspective of our planet for the first time and, more importantly, observe what they do with that new perspective and how they change the world for the better.