Articles tagged with: Overview Effect

Thirtieth Anniversary of the Publication of The Overview Effect

Written by The Overview Effect and the Earth's Future on Saturday, 22 April 2017. Posted in Overview Effect

The first edition of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution was published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1987.


The Overview Effect and the Earth's Future

Written by Frank White on Wednesday, 04 January 2017. Posted in Overview Effect

Astronauts have many varied responses to seeing the Earth from space and in space. However, one stands out for most observers: they come to have a deeper appreciation not only of the beauty of our home planet but also for its importance to humanity's future. I have not interviewed an astronaut as yet who is content to say that we can ignore the Earth as we move out into the solar system.

However, many of the justifications for settling Mars center on having a "Plan B" or an "insurance policy" in case something happens to the Earth. The term "extinction event" is being used more and more. We need to explore this mindset and consider what it means for the future of the Earth. Is it simply common sense, and should we not have such an insurance policy, or is it a subtle way to care less about the natural spaceship that gave us birth and protects us as we move through the universe at a high rate of speed?

More on this topic later!


Looking Ahead to 2017

Written by Publishing the Third Edition of The Overview Effect on Tuesday, 03 January 2017. Posted in Overview Effect

Looking ahead to 2017, it promises to be a busy year for space exploration and development.

The dialogue has shifted from "Should we expand outward into the solar system?" to "How are we going to do it?"

There is also the question of how exploring and developing the solar system will benefit our home planet and the people who choose to remain inhabitants of it.

This is why the Overview Effect is so important. In all of my interviews with astronauts, none of them said we should explore outer space because we needed to abandon the Earth. Rather, all of them seemed to have a renewed concern for the planet and for preserving it.

For this reason, I believe that the question before us is not even "How are we going to do it?" but "How are we going to do it right?"

More on this topic later.

Frank White






The View from Mars and the Copernican Perspective (Part II)

Written by Frank White on Thursday, 21 January 2016. Posted in Other Issues

We cannot predict, with any certainty, the impact on human thought, of seeing the Earth from Mars, but we can make some educated guesses.

            To begin with, we have, in a way, already seen the Earth from the Martian surface, through the eyes of the Curiosity Rover. On January 31, 2014, our robot explorer took a photo of the Earth and the moon just after sunset. Without enhancement, you really can’t see the moon, but the Earth from Mars looks a lot like Mars from the Earth. It resembles a bright star that doesn’t blink the way that stars do.

            In the context of the Overview Effect, it is worth noting that all the distinguishing features of our home planet, such as oceans, continents, and ice caps, disappear when seen from that great a distance. This is relevant because seeing the Earth from orbit or the moon still provides the viewer with those features. However, what is more striking is coming to understand that these features are parts of a whole system, the Earth itself.

            That is the essence of the Overview Effect.

            At some point, however, the Mars mission astronauts will move out beyond the moon and begin to see the Earth shrink in size until, closer to Mars, it looks like that unblinking star. At this singular moment, if not sooner, they will experience an enhancement of the Overview Effect that I have called “the Copernican Perspective.”

            The Copernican Perspective is a realization that the Earth is not only a whole, but is also a part, in this case of the solar system. While the Earth is relatively large as seen from orbit, and still quite an impressive sight when viewed from the moon, it will be rather easy to miss, or even ignore, when seen from Mars.

            Early Earthlings on the red planet may respond to this situation with homesickness. When we travel on the surface of the Earth, we often long for the familiar sights and sounds of our home country, which we can no longer see or hear.

            They may also react with a form of denial. After all, anyone who has volunteered to leave their home planet and establish a new civilization on an alien world must have settled accounts with themselves and their families, making the case that the adventure would be worth the sacrifices it entails.

            As they settle in and begin to create a new civilization, another sentiment may begin to develop: frustration.

(To Be Continued)







The View from Mars and the Copernican Perspective (Part I)

Written by Frank White on Monday, 11 January 2016. Posted in Other Issues

Humanity is going to Mars.


            After decades of thinking about it, talking about it, planning for it, and imagining what it will be like, a critical mass of key people have now made the decision that this is our next major step in human evolution into the universe.

            Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has made it clear over and over again that his vision is to establish a human settlement on Mars. His company is accepting contracts to supply the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA, and will send paying passengers into Low Earth Orbit to pave the way, but Mars is the ultimate goal.

            NASA, thanks to a major shift in policy, has abandoned Low Earth Orbit to private enterprise, and canceled plans for a return to the moon. Instead, the agency is turning its attention to Mars as well.

            Then, there is MarsOne, the private nonprofit enterprise offering settlers a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

            Many other nations are participating in what might be called “The Mars Project,” and there is much to say about it. However, let’s focus for a moment on what it means from an Overview Effect perspective.

            Bear in mind that when we talk about the Overview Effect as a shift in worldview that astronauts experience in Low Earth Orbit or on lunar missions, the moon represents the greatest distance anyone has traveled away from the Earth. At some point, the astronauts traveling to Mars (or the Martian settlers) will see the home planet from the greatest distance ever.

            We can only speculate on what impact that moment will have on their psyches, but we suspect it will engender an experience of the “Copernican Perspective,” a realization not only that the Earth is a whole, interconnected system, but that it is a part of a larger system, the solar system.

Frank White
(To be continued)