Brain Pickings

The Overview Effect and the Psychology of Cosmic Awe

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The spirituality of space exploration as self-exploration.

Since the dawn of recorded history, humanity has been mesmerized by Earth’s place in the cosmos. Overview is a fascinating short film by Planetary Collective, written by Frank White, exploring the “overview effect” — the profound, shocking feeling that grips astronauts as they see our planet hang in space and the strange new self-awareness it precipitates. The film is based on Frank White’s 1987 book The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution and celebrates the 40th anniversary of NASA’s iconic Blue Marble photograph.

Every two minutes, a picture of the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun — a 360-degree panorama of the heavens — appeared in the spacecraft window. And I’d studied astronomy, and I’d studied cosmology, and I fully understood that the molecules in my body and the molecules in my partners’ bodies and the molecules in the spacecraft had been prototyped in this amazing generation of stars — in other words, it was pretty obvious … we’re stardust.” ~ Apollo Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

Complement with iconic astronaut Sally Ride’s first-hand account of what it’s like to launch on the Space Shuttle and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s chill-inducing monologue on the most astounding fact about the universe.

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