The Life-Changing Perspective You'll Likely Never Experience

Here's What We Should Learn From Astronauts' Epiphany

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🧠 This week’s favorite thought 🧠

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

Marcus Aurelius

Imagine that you are orbiting the Moon, and while being amazed by the close view of its surface, soon after, you get a glimpse of the Earth.

The planet is rising from behind the surface of the Moon and shows its bright blue beauty.

How would you react at that moment? What feelings and emotions would strike you as you see our planet Earth?

You might have the imagination to assume how you would live through that experience. However, 24 people actually had the chance to see Earth outside of low Earth orbit.

This incredible experience wasn't just a figment of the imagination. It happened, and it was thanks to the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.

A crewed spacecraft entered lunar orbit for the first time in history, giving its occupants a stunning view of the Earth from over 200,000 miles.

The Earthrise, taken by Astronaut Bill Anders on Apollo 8 (Credits: NASA)

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 was orbiting around the Moon when the Earth was rising.

This was a vastly new experience for the crew and humankind as well.

Here's the astronauts’ transcript from those moments:

Anders: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, that's pretty.

Borman: Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled. (joking)

Anders: (laughs) You got a color film, Jim? Hand me a roll of color, quick, would you?

Lovell: Oh man, that's great!

Anders: Hurry.

Lovell: Where is it?

Anders: Quick

The Theory of Overview Effect And How It Inspired Astronauts To Take Action

Almost 20 years after the crewed lunar missions, writer Frank White interviewed 29 astronauts and studied their testimony, leading him to the creation of The Overview Effect theory.

The theory describes how astronauts - and, nowadays, civilian space travelers - experience how their sight of Earth from space transforms their perspective on life on our planet.

Credits: NASA

One of the most striking aspects of the Overview Effect is the sense of interconnectedness that it can inspire.

Astronauts have described feeling a deep connection to Earth and all of its inhabitants and a renewed appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our planet.

"Looking down at our planet from the Moon, you don't see any divisions there of nations or states. This is all just one world, and it's a very small one."

Charlie Duke, astronaut

Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, who spent 22 days in space during 3 Space Shuttle missions, has described her experience of seeing the Earth from space as a "wake-up call" that motivated her to become more involved in environmental issues.

She has since become an advocate for ocean conservation and a board member of the Ocean Exploration Trust.

Ron Garan, who flew on both the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz spacecraft, has also been inspired by the Overview Effect to take action on environmental issues.

After his missions to the International Space Station, Garan founded the Fragile Oasis organization to promote sustainability and conservation on Earth.

How A Suborbital Spaceflight Gave The Deepest Grief To William Shatner

Not all space travelers experienced the Overview Effect in a positive and elevated aspect.

At the age of 90, the Star Trek actor had a life-changing experience as he participated in Blue Origin's suborbital mission.

In his memoir, he explained how he saw death as he looked at the deep darkness of space. However, in an editorial in The Guardian, he further expounded on his experience.

“While I was looking away from Earth, and turned towards the rest of the universe, I didn't feel connection; I didn't feel attraction. What I understood, in the clearest possible way, was that we were living on a tiny oasis of life, surrounded by an immensity of death.

I didn't see infinite possibilities of worlds to explore, of adventures to have, or living creatures to connect with. I saw the deepest darkness I could have ever imagined, contrasting starkly with the welcoming warmth of our nurturing home planet.”

He wrote that he realized how humankind spent decades and centuries with the obsession of looking away to space, and he also played a part in popularizing how space was the final frontier.

However, he explains how we are relentlessly rushing towards making Earth uninhabitable.

What was his most extraordinary experience of traveling to space filled him with sadness and made him worry about his grandchildren and future generations.

As we live in our everyday environment as a tiny bubble, it is hard to realize what our planet means to us and what it gives to human beings.

I greatly advocate for space exploration to understand where we come from and what is out there in the grand universe.

It is a notion that humans can hardly comprehend. However, as technology and science evolve, we learn more about that, piece by piece.

But it is also essential to utilizing space exploration's outstanding achievements to protect Earth's great treasure. Because - at least for now - there is no other place in our universe where we can go.

However, on a positive note, this is precisely what we are doing. Without the significant innovations that space exploration brought us in the past half a century, our life, especially science on Earth, would be less developed.

Medicine, agriculture, marine biology, and other disciplines are greatly advantaged by the technology we use in space exploration.

As individuals and collectives, it is our role to ensure that we can be on the right track to preserve what we have here on this colossal spacecraft that we call Earth.

Máté - The Mindful Guerilla

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