A new film celebrates the perspective that comes with seeing the Earth from afar.
Twenty-five years ago, writer Frank White came up with a name for the profound aesthetic — almost religious — feeling that many astronauts report after seeing the Earth from space. He called it The Overview Effect, and wrote a book and founded an institute of the same name to explore the phenomenon further. Now, to mark the 40th anniversary of the famous Apollo 17 “Blue Marble” photo, there’s a documentary film.
The folks at the Overview Institute are aware that this is all a little too touchy-feely for some people. As they say on their website, “The Overview Effect, while intuitively valid to many, is often marginalized as a philosophical, metaphysical or aesthetic epiphany, not the fundamental perspective-altering experience that both astronauts and scientists suggest that it is.”
I used to be skeptical myself. I figured the view of Earth from space would be breath-taking, sure, but just an extension of other awe-inspiring natural sights. But after hearing many astronauts — who tend to be practical, no-nonsense people – talk about the experience, I’m prepared to accept that there’s something qualitatively different about seeing the planet ...