The View from Mars and The Copernican Perspective (Part I)

January 09, 2016 at 1:56 pm by Frank White

Humanity is going to Mars.

After decades of thinking about it, talking about it, planning for it, and imagining what it will be like, a critical mass of key people have now made the decision that this is our next major step in human evolution into the universe.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has made it clear over and over again that his vision is to establish a human settlement on Mars. His company is accepting contracts to supply the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA, and will send paying passengers into Low Earth Orbit to pave the way, but Mars is the ultimate goal.

NASA, thanks to a major shift in policy, has abandoned Low Earth Orbit to private enterprise, and canceled plans for a return to the moon. Instead, the agency is turning its attention to Mars as well.

Then, there is MarsOne, the private nonprofit enterprise offering settlers a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

Many other nations are participating in what might be called “The Mars Project,” and there is much to say about it. However, let’s focus for a moment on what it means from an Overview Effect perspective.

Bear in mind that when we talk about the Overview Effect as a shift in worldview that astronauts experience in Low Earth Orbit or on lunar missions, the moon represents the greatest distance anyone has traveled away from the Earth. At some point, the astronauts traveling to Mars (or the Martian settlers) will see the home planet from the greatest distance ever.

We can only speculate on what impact that moment will have on their psyches, but we suspect it will engender an experience of the “Copernican Perspective,” a realization not only that the Earth is a whole, interconnected system, but that it is a part of a larger system, the solar system.

(To be continued)