Article 43

 

Saturday, October 08, 2022

The Overview Effect

space.jpg image: space border=0

“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity - in all this vastness - there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
- Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
Video: Overview Effect, NASA

“It felt like a funeral” William Shatner says trip to space filled him with “grief”

By Tom Murray
Yahoo News
October 7, 2022

William Shatner had a surprising reaction to his 2021 space flight onboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle.

Then 90 years old, the Star Trek actor became the oldest living person to travel into space.

In an excerpt from his upcoming book, BOLDLY GO: REFLECTIONS OF A LIFE OF AWE AND WONDER, shared by Variety, Shatner revealed that the flight filled him with an overwhelming sense of “dread” and “grief” for our planet.

“When I looked ... into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold… all I saw was death,” Shatner wrote.

“I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.”

“It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered.”

SOURCE

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My Trip to Space Filled Me With ‘Overwhelming Sadness’

By William Shatner
Variety
October 6, 2022

In this exclusive excerpt from William Shatners new book, “Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder,” the Star Trek actor reflects on his voyage into space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Oct. 13, 2021. Then 90 years old, Shatner became the oldest living person to travel into space, but as the actor and author details below, he was surprised by his own reaction to the experience.

So, I went to space.

Our group, consisting of me, tech mogul Glen de Vries, Blue Origin Vice President and former NASA International Space Station flight controller Audrey Powers, and former NASA engineer Dr. Chris Boshuizen, had done various simulations and training courses to prepare, but you can only prepare so much for a trip out of Earth’s atmosphere! As if sensing that feeling in our group, the ground crew kept reassuring us along the way. “Everything’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about anything. It’s all okay.” Sure, easy for them to say, I thought. They get to stay here on the ground.

During our preparation, we had gone up eleven flights of the gantry to see what it would be like when the rocket was there. We were then escorted to a thick cement room with oxygen tanks. What’s this room for? I asked casually.

“Oh, you guys will rush in here if the rocket explodes,” a Blue Origin fellow responded just as casually.

Uh-huh. A safe room. Eleven stories up. In case the rocket explodes.

Well, at least they’ve thought of it.

When the day finally arrived, I couldn’t get the Hindenburg out of my head. Not enough to cancel, of course - I hold myself to be a professional, and I was booked. The show had to go on.

We got ourselves situated inside the pod. You have to strap yourself in in a specific order. In the simulator, I didnt nail it every time, so as I sat there, waiting to take off, the importance of navigating weightlessness to get back and strap into the seat correctly was at the forefront of my mind.

That, and the Hindenburg crash.

Then there was a delay.

“Sorry, folks, there’s a slight anomaly in the engine. It’ll just be a few moments.”

An anomaly in the engine?! That sounds kinda serious, doesn’t iit?

An anomaly is something that does not belong. What is currently in the engine that doesn’t belong there?!

More importantly, why would they tell us that? There is a time for unvarnished honesty. I get that. This wasn’t it.

Apparently, the anomaly wasn’t too concerning, because thirty seconds later, we were cleared for launch and the countdown began. With all the attending noise, fire, and fury, we lifted off. I could see Earth disappearing. As we ascended, I was at once aware of pressure. Gravitational forces pulling at me. The g’s. There was an instrument that told us how many g’s we were experiencing. At two g’s, I tried to raise my arm, and could barely do so. At three g’s, I felt my face being pushed down into my seat. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, I thought. Will I pass out? Will my face melt into a pile of mush? How many gs can my ninety-year-old body handle?

And then, suddenly, relief. No g’s. Zero. Weightlessness. We were floating.

We got out of our harnesses and began to float around. The other folks went straight into somersaults and enjoying all the effects of weightlessness. I wanted no part in that. I wanted, needed to get to the windowas quickly as possible to see what was out there.

I looked down and I could see the hole that our spaceship had punched in the thin, blue-tinged layer of oxygen around Earth. It was as if there was a wake trailing behind where we had just been, and just as soon as I’d noticed it, it disappeared.

I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death.

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her.

Everything I had thought was wrong. Everything I had expected to see was wrong.

I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things - that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Fosters character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.” I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s DOWN HERE, with ALL OF US. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.

It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.

I learned later that I was not alone in this feeling. It is called the “OVERVIEW EFFECT” and is not uncommon among astronauts, including Yuri Gagarin, Michael Collins, Sally Ride, and many others. Essentially, when someone travels to space and views Earth from orbit, a sense of the planet’s fragility takes hold in an ineffable, instinctive manner. Author Frank White first coined the term in 1987: “There are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through human behaviors. All the ideas and concepts that divide us when we are on the surface begin to fade from orbit and the moon. The result is a shift in worldview, and in identity.”

It can change the way we look at the planet but also other things like countries, ethnicities, religions; it can prompt an instant reevaluation of our shared harmony and a shift in focus to all the wonderful things we have in common instead of what makes us different. It reinforced tenfold my own view on the power of our beautiful, mysterious collective human entanglement, and eventually, it returned a feeling of hope to my heart. In this insignificance we share, we have one gift that other species perhaps do not: we are aware - not only of our insignificance, but the grandeur around us that makes us insignificant. That allows us perhaps a chance to rededicate ourselves to our planet, to each other, to life and love all around us. If we seize that chance.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/08/22 •
Section Revelations
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