We are all astronauts of Space Ship Earth

OckelsOn May 18, 2014, the Netherlands lost its first astronaut, Wubbo Ockels. All Dutch news networks reported extensively on his life –  as an astronaut and as a sustainability pioneer.

He does not seem to be well-known outside of the Netherlands, as most posts in English are about his 7 days in space. Looking upon Planet Earth from outer space changed him profoundly, realizing how fragile our ecosystem is and that we need to work together to make things better on earth. After a week onboard the Space Shuttle in 1985, he dedicated his life to driving change for a more sustainable planet. As an academic, as an entrepreneur, as a person. For the past five years, he has been in the top 10 of the 100 drivers of sustainable change in the Netherlands.

He was known for his out-of-the-box thinking, dreaming up plans way ahead of their time. Some plans became reality (like having two Dutch teams win the Solar Challenge 2013), others failed, but as the eternal optimist, he would just not give up. Some people loved him, others loathed him, but he could care less: he was a man with a mission. Just before he passed away, he wrote a manifesto for humanity, structured like a religion that would create a new attitude, a new culture, a new mindset, a new unification of humanity, for our survival. The statement closes with ten commandments. My favorite one, which he has used many times in his inspiring speeches, is: “We are all astronauts of Space Ship Earth”.  The analogy is great – we need to work together in a confined space, within limited time, to achieve our mission of living within the boundaries of one planet, in a way that respects current and future generations around the world.

He certainly wasn’t the only astronaut who had fallen in love with Planet Earth when looking at it from outer space. Even one of the first men on the moon, Edgar Mitchell, continues to urge America to rethink sustainability. Actually, I hope there are many Wubbo’s and Edgar’s around the world who leverage their fame to raise awareness and drive change for a better world.

Who are your favorite astronauts of Planet Earth from around the world?


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