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The Blue Marble, the Earth as seen by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972

The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

It is the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, "hanging in the void", shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative.[5]

The thing that really surprised me was that it [Earth] projected an air of fragility. And why, I don’t know. I don’t know to this day. I had a feeling it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.

— Michael Collins, Apollo 11[7]

Astronauts Michael Collins, Ron Garan,[8] Rusty Schweikart,[5] Edgar Mitchell,[5] Tom Jones,[5] Scott Kelly,[9] James Irwin[10], Mike Massimino[11], André Kuipers[12] and Chris Hadfield[13] are all reported to have experienced the effect. Third-party observers of these individuals may also report a noticeable difference in attitude.[5]

The term and concept were coined in 1987 by Frank White, who explored the theme in his book The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998).[14][15]

In 2018, the SpaceBuzz project was created so "children around the world can also get to experience the Overview Effect."[16] It was announced in a press release on December 20 by astronaut André Kuipers on the European Space Agency's (ESA) website.[17] Spacebuzz aims to give children an overview effect like experience using virtual reality in order to have the same insight astronauts have when seeing planet Earth from space. Spacebuzz is a project started by the Overview Effect Foundation backed by ESA and the Netherlands Space Office.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Douglas A. Vakoch (6 July 2011). Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective. Government Printing Office. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-0-16-088358-3. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  2. ^ Albert A. Harrison (1 April 2007). Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion, and Folklore. Berghahn Books. pp. 92–. ISBN 978-1-84545-286-5. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  3. ^ Douglas A. Vakoch. On Orbit and Beyond. Springer. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-3-642-30583-2. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Space Euphoria: Do Our Brains Change When We Travel in Outer Space?", Daily Galaxy, 2008-05-20
  5. ^ a b c d e f The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the “Overview Effect” Experienced by Astronauts, Ian O'Neill, Universe Today, 2008-05-22
  6. ^ Yaden, David B.; Iwry, Jonathan; Slack, Kelley J.; Eichstaedt, Johannes C.; Zhao, Yukun; Vaillant, George E.; Newberg, Andrew B. (2016). "The overview effect: Awe and self-transcendent experience in space flight". Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. 3 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1037/cns0000086. ISSN 2326-5531.
  7. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2019-07-16). "For Apollo 11 He Wasn't on the Moon. But His Coffee Was Warm". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  8. ^ TEDx Talks (2012-01-18), TedxVienna - Ron Garan - The Orbital Perspective of Our Fragile Oasis, retrieved 2018-03-17
  9. ^ Feloni, Richard (19 March 2018). "NASA astronaut Scott Kelly explains how seeing planet Earth from space changed his perspective on life". Business Insider. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. ^ Wilford, John Noble (10 August 1991). "James B. Irwin, 61, Ex-Astronaut; Founded Religious Organization". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  11. ^ "StarTalk Live at the Bell House, The Astronaut Session", Star Talk Radio, 2012-01-29, [1]
  12. ^ "André Kuipers: 'It is better for humanity to live on multiple planets'". Intermediair. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  13. ^ Hadfield, Chris, Chris Hadfield: How space travel expands your mind, retrieved 2018-03-24
  14. ^ "Space Tourism: Face Time with Earth", Leonard David, Senior Space Writer,, 2006-08-05, Space-ecotourism
  15. ^ De Luce, Ivan (July 16, 2019). "Something profound happens when astronauts see Earth from space for the first time". Business Insider. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Spacebuzz - Creating ambassadors of planet Earth". Spacebuzz. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  17. ^ "Revealing SpaceBuzz, an innovative VR program".

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