What is "the Mars Effect?"

October 27, 2016 at 5:47 am by Frank White

I am beginning to see the outlines of what a "Mars Effect" might be. It is different from the Overview Effect, but is still a way in which space exploration has an impact on human thought. It is connected with the Overview Effect as a subset of the Copernican Perspective, a realization that we are part of the solar system, an astronaut insight that was discussed in my book, The Overview Effect. Here are some excerpts from the book:

We will explore our entire solar system in the next 400  or 500  years, but we won't be able to go beyond that point. ... I believe it's possible, but it'll be a long time.
-Payload specialist Marc Garneau

Many years ago, Democratic  Senator  Spark  Matsunaga  of Hawaii  suggested  in an Omni magazine article that the American space community, led by Wernher von Braun, had its sights set on a space frontier with Mars as its outer boundary  before the Apollo program. He said, “From the beginning,  NASA planners shared  von Braun's  aspirations for a Mars mission as the primary target of our space  program. But in the spring of 1961 John  Kennedy  needed  a relatively  quick  and dramatic space accomplishment, so he sent  NASA racing to the moon instead.”1

Matsunaga reminded  us that Robert Goddard, whose work in rocketry laid the foundation  for the American space program, had a vision of “the  planet Mars, red and gleaming in the darkness of space” while sitting in a cherry tree in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1899. Goddard imagined  a vehicle that would take him to Mars and "spent  the rest of his life working to turn his vision into reality.” 2


(1) Matsunaga, S. "Marsquest," Omni, June 1986, p. 22, in The Overview Effect, p. 123.

(2) Ibid.

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at aiaa.org and amazon.com