Earthrise and the Overview Effect
Earthrise. On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took the first photograph of the Earth from lunar orbit. The photo became known as "Earthrise," and it was the first time human beings had ever seen the Earth from the perspective of another heavenly body.
Renowned outdoor photographer, Galen Rowell, called it the "most influential photograph ever taken."
The Overview Effect – A term coined by Frank White in 1987 describes the emotional sensation that many astronauts experience when viewing the Earth as a whole from the stillness of space. This view, according to the astronauts, radically changes your perspective and enhances your appreciation for the beauty and fragility of life on Earth. You feel tenderness towards her because she is so small against the backdrop of infinite space and so beautiful too. And you think of all the lives of animals and species and humans who’ve lived there and all the drama of life on earth, its splendor and travail, its suffering and joy. And you have to ask: “What is it all about?” And when you do ask that question you are confronted with a profound mystery. A mystery that no one can fully explain or understand, not one living person throughout the history of recorded time. For we are all caught together in the same net of life and time. And we don’t know why. Yet we feel this profound sense of gratitude, humility, and awe. -Reflections on the Overview Effect, Kim Ashley.
Astronauts Speak – “The thing that really surprised me was that the Earth projected an air of fragility. And, why, 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, NASA Astronaut, Apollo 11
“And a little later on, your friend goes out to the moon. And now he looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but now he sees the Earth as a small thing out there. And the contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and the black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through, and the size of it, the significance of it. It is so small and so fragile and such a precious little spot in the universe that you can block it out with your thumb. And you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you – all of history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb…. And you realize from that perspective that you’ve changed, that there’s something new here, that the relationship is no longer what it was.”
-Russell Schweikart, NASA Astronaut, Apollo 9