Apollo 8 and the Overview Effect: Part One

December 21, 2018 at 5:35 am by Frank White

As many of you are aware, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 8 mission to the moon. Much of the attention is focused on the amazing "Earthrise" photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders, in which the Earth appears to rise above the lunar surface. It is a startling reversal of our usual perception, where the moon rises above the terrestrial surface.

However, there was another important moment on that mission, at least in terms of the Overview Effect. That was on the way to the moon, when the astronauts turned their video camera around to show us a somewhat blurry picture of the whole Earth. It was the first time in history that human beings had seen the Earth from that vantage point and then shared it with their fellows back on the planet. It was not the first time the Overview Effect had been experienced, but it marked a new phase in the evolution of our consciousness as a result of space exploration.

I was in London at the time, after a terrible year for the United States. In 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, our cities were in flames, and the war in Vietnam went from bad to worse. At that moment when the astronauts showed us our planet as a unified whole, not as a chaotic and divisive place, I felt hope for the first time in quite a while. I didn't fully understand why, but as 1968 drew to a close, I began to look forward to 1969.

Today, after 50 years of thinking about that moment, I believe I am just beginning to understand how profound it really was.

More later!

Copyright, Frank White, 2018, All Rights Reserved

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

The New Camelot: the Quest for the Overview Effect is available at Apogee Prime