Now that our latest robot ambassador to Mars—“Curiosity”—has survived its complex and risky landing, I am reminded of a stage of awareness resulting from space exploration that lies beyond the Overview Effect. In The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, I dubbed this “the Copernican Perspective.” It is the realization that we are not only part of a whole system called Earth but that the Earth is also part of a whole system called the solar system.
By now, the message of the Overview Effect regarding life on Earth seems clear: we are part of a whole system that includes human civilization as part of it. In this “planetary overview system,” we are all connected, and “we are all in it together,” as many of the astronauts and cosmonauts have said. Extending this thought beyond ourselves, everything in this system is interconnected.
Even as we honor her life and achievements, Sally Ride is still breaking new ground. In the July issue of Air and Space Magazine, apparently written shortly before her passing, she gave one of the most detailed and evocative statements of the experience of the Overview Effect I have read.