A Realization From Orbit, 1997

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Ed Lu and Jean-Francois Clervoy aboard STS-84. Image courtesy NASA.


On September 19th, 1997, Ed Lu and fellow astronaut Jean-François “Billy Bob” Clervoy were enjoying their last dinner aboard the space shuttle, looking at Earth glowing beneath them.

It was a rare moment of quiet. Ed and Jean-François had just left the International Space Station after an extended stay, and would be landing on Earth in less than a day’s time.

As they ate their spaghetti in silence, watching the continents go by, Jean-François spoke up. “Isn’t it incredible how vast our universe is? And how small we are? We’re flying 18,000 miles an hour! And it still takes us so long to get around our planet.”

He added a final thought—one that would stay with Ed for a long time.

“But then again, here we are. In space, watching the Earth go by from a ship that humans designed, built, and launched. we may be small—but we can do big, amazing things.”

Since that realization from orbit, over the next 15 years, Ed has worked alongside some of the world’s most innovative minds, all doing “big, amazing things.” From NASA and Google to companies working on liquid robotics and 3D modeling, Ed witnessed two powerful phenomena:

(1) our capacity to develop technologies that address incredible challenges, and

(2) the power of private initiative to set the wheels of innovation into motion.

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