In December of 1968, Apollo 8 went to the moon. When the cameras turned to give viewers a look of Earth, many were touched deeply beyond words. On the 40th anniversary of the notorious ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken from space by Apollo 17 in 1972, Planetary Collective presented this short film. It tells the stories of how seeing the Earth from the outside impacted and changed the lives of the astronauts.
When these astronauts started on their voyage to the moon, their entire focus was on the moon. They never thought about looking back to see what the Earth looked like. But after doing it, that may well have been the most important reason for the journey. This experience of seeing our planet hanging in space is often described as the Overview Effect —an occurrence so powerful that it can alter one’s perspective. You start out with the idea of what being in space is going to be like, but when you get to see Earth for the very first time, its beauty overwhelms you.
The Overview Effect was first described in 1987 by author Frank White. It is an experience that transforms the perspective an astronaut has of the planet and mankind’s place upon it.
Some common effects of the experience are a deep feeling of admiration for our planet, an in-depth understanding of the interconnection of all living things, and a renewed sense of urgency and determination for the preservation of our environment.
One of the favorite activities that astronauts engage in during their free time is what they call ‘Earth gazing’. There are always so many things going on that can be easily observed from space like the interactivity of the biosphere and the changing scenery. This can make them stare for hours at a time.
The Overview Experience is a cognitive shift that can produce a meditative experience. Some people turn to religion to try to explain it, while others turn to science. The truth is that it’s very clear that if the Earth becomes sick, then we become sick and we need to be aware that it’s up to us to keep that from happening. We need to go beyond just seeking answers and make a commitment to come up with solutions by shifting our behaviors in such a way that it leads to a sustainable approach to our civilization.
‘Overview’ explores this phenomenon through heart to heart interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the effect. The film also includes insight from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and our relationship to the environment. Watch this awe-inspiring film now.