Overview effect

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]

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

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.[quote] [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]

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin[8] and astronauts Michael Collins, Ron Garan,[9] Rusty Schweikart,[5] Edgar Mitchell,[5] Tom Jones,[5] Scott Kelly,[10] James Irwin,[11] Mike Massimino,[12] André Kuipers,[13] Chris Hadfield,[14] Sally Ride, and Anne McClain[15] are all reported to have experienced the effect.[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).[16][17]

In 2018, the Spacebuzz project was created so "children around the world can also get to experience the Overview Effect."[18] It was announced in a press release on December 20 by astronaut André Kuipers on the European Space Agency's (ESA) website.[19] Spacebuzz aims to give children an overview effect like experience using virtual reality (VR) 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.[18]

In late 2019 it was reported that researchers at the University of Missouri aimed to reproduce the experience, with an isolation tank, half a tonne of Epsom salts, and a waterproof VR headset.[20]

In August 2020 anthropologist Deana L. Weibel introduced the parallel term "ultraview effect," a subjective response of intense awe some astronauts have experienced viewing large "starfields" while in space, and discussed the impact of the overview effect and the ultraview effect on astronauts' religious beliefs.[21]

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 (20 December 2012). 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?". The Daily Galaxy. 2008-05-20.
  5. ^ a b c d e f O'Neill, Ian (22 May 2008). "The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the "Overview Effect" Experienced by Astronauts". Universe Today.
  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. ^ "Yuri Gagarin". Wikiquote. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  9. ^ TEDx Talks (2012-01-18), TedxVienna - Ron Garan - The Orbital Perspective of Our Fragile Oasis, retrieved 2018-03-17
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Wilford, John Noble (10 August 1991). "James B. Irwin, 61, Ex-Astronaut; Founded Religious Organization". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  12. ^ "StarTalk Live at the Bell House, The Astronaut Session". Star Talk Radio. 2012-01-29. 23:10.
  13. ^ "André Kuipers: 'It is better for humanity to live on multiple planets'". Intermediair. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  14. ^ Hadfield, Chris (23 March 2018), Chris Hadfield: How space travel expands your mind, retrieved 2018-03-24
  15. ^ "Astronaut describes seeing sunrise from Space for first time". YouTube. April 27, 2020. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  16. ^ "Space Tourism: Face Time with Earth", Leonard David, Senior Space Writer, SPACE.com, 2006-08-05, Space-ecotourism
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ a b "Spacebuzz - Creating ambassadors of planet Earth". Spacebuzz. Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  19. ^ "Revealing SpaceBuzz, an innovative VR program".
  20. ^ Sample, Ian (26 December 2019). "Scientists attempt to recreate 'Overview effect' from Earth". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-12-28 – via www.theguardian.com.
  21. ^ Weibel, Deana (13 August 2020). "The Overview Effect and the Ultraview Effect: How Extreme Experiences in/of Outer Space Influence Religious Beliefs in Astronauts". Religions. 11 (8): 418. doi:10.3390/rel11080418. S2CID 225477388.

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