Hokule’a, the famous replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe, visited Martha’s Vineyard in June of last year. Since then, she has sailed more than 40,000 nautical around the world and is now in Tahiti about to journey home to Honolulu where she will arrive on June 17 to a tumultuous welcome. She is spreading the message of malama honua (taking care of Island Earth) by promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness. Her mission was inspired by a view from space by Hawaiian astronaut Lacy Veach.

Let’s step back in time to 1992 — earth orbit, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, Mission STS-52.

Over the crackle and hiss of static, astronaut Charles Lacy Veach spoke via radio with navigator Nainoa Thompson aboard Hokule‘a which was then sailing from Rarotonga to Honolulu. They c

ompared the similarities and differences between Hokule‘a and spaceship Columbia.

“Both are embarked on voyages of exploration. Hokule‘a is voyaging back to the past, Columbia forward to the future,” Veach said.

“Columbia is the highest achievement of modern technology today,” Thompson added from Hokule‘a, “the voyaging canoe was the highest achievement of technology in its day.”

Lacy grew up in Hawaii and went to school with Nainoa. They were good friends.

Aboard the shuttle, Veach had a vision. “Lacy was asleep,” Nainoa recalls, “stuck to the wall with Velcro, when another astronaut woke him up. ‘Come and look out the window. We’re passing over Hawaii,’ he said. Lacy looked out the porthole of the shuttle. The sight of the islands took his breath away. He saw the islands and the planet in one vision — that planet earth was just an island like Hawaii, in an ocean of space, and that we needed to take care of them both if the planet was to remain a life-giving home for humanity.”

Aboard the canoe, Thompson had a similar vision: “When we sail, we are surrounded by the world’s largest ocean, but Earth itself is also a kind of island, surrounded by an ocean of space. In the end, every single one of us — no matter what our ethnic background or nationality — is native to this planet. As the native community of Earth we should all ensure that the next century is the century of pono — of balance — between all people, all living things and the resources of our planet.”

Lacy had seen the damage that human populations were doing to planet Earth from space — great river deltas spewing pollution into the oceans, fires and plumes of smoke from pristine rain forests, sprawling cities. Lacy, Nainoa and his father Pinky Thompson believed that planet Earth was heading toward an unsustainable future. But they also believed that the knowledge and values of their Hawaiian ancestors had enabled them to care for Hawaii and her surrounding ocean for nearly 2,000 years through the careful management of natural resources to sustain a large, healthy population.

“We should go and share that knowledge and those values with the world,” Lacy suggested.

From that conversation emerged the vision of Hokule‘a’s Malama Honua voyage — sailing around the world to share Hawaiian values and practices and to learn from others how to live within the budget of nature’s resources.

Sam Low lives in Oak Bluffs.