Opening Remarks at Launch of Academy in Space Initiative

April 14, 2016 at 6:41 am by Frank White

The following are a portion of my opening remarks at the launch of the Academy in Space Initiative at Framingham State University on April 6, 2016:

“As you will see in the film we are about to show, the idea of the Overview Effect came to me on a cross-country flight in the late 1970s. I had the insight that seeing the Earth from orbit or the moon might fundamentally change one’s identity and worldview. So I began interviewing astronauts to see if they had indeed had such an experience. The book by the same name was published in November 1987 and is now in its third edition.

“The Overview Effect is not about me, or our panel members, or any one individual—it is about all of us as human beings. The Overview Effect is a message from the universe to us about who we really are and what our future is all about.

“The first person to have this remarkable experience was Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited the Earth on April 12, 1961, just about 55 years ago. He said:

The point was not the distance but the principle. (Humanity) had overcome the force of Earth’s gravity and gone out into space.*

“As Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart said of his experience:

You’re out there on the forefront and you have to bring that back somehow. That becomes a rather special responsibility and it tells you something about your relationship with this thing we call life…And all through this I’ve used the word “you” because it’s not me, it’s you, it’s we. It’s Life that’s had that experience.

“This message was first passed to the astronauts, and then to many others, including myself, who have been working to interpret it, and now to the filmmakers at Planetary Collective, and we are now passing it to you.

“Let me just say a few things about that message:

“First, it is true that there are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through human behaviors.  All the ideas and concepts that divide us when we are on the surface begin to fade from orbit and the moon. The result is a shift in worldview, and in identity.

“Second, our planet is, in the words of former astronaut Ron Garan, a fragile oasis and we need to take care of it.  So there is a strong environmental component to the message.

“Third, we are one species with one destiny as we move out from the Earth and begin to explore the universe. Survival of the planet and exploration of the solar system should both be seen as global concerns.

“Finally, we need to understand that we are in space, we have always been in space, and we always will be in space, whether we leave the planet or not. In a very real sense, all of us are astronauts, members of the crew of spaceship Earth, and the time has come to realize that this is so.

“So, do you want to change the world? It begins with how you see the world. It begins with your worldview.

* Gagarin used the term "man," which I have updated here.