The overview effect
“I’m on the top of the world, lookin’ down on creation and the only explanation I can find…”
“…is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around. Your love’s put me on top of the world.”
You have to be of a certain vintage to remember this lovely old Carpenters song.
But it was not love that put me on top of the world. It was a call from the office of the richest man on the planet, the Bezos himself. With an invitation to an event at Vegas, re:MARS. I didn’t decline the invitation. There were many, many highlights to the trip. Some of the robotics on display were truly mind-bending. But for me, the greatest thrill was the Blue Origin Shepard Capsule. The original – named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space – is a reusable suborbital system designed to take astronauts beyond the Kármán Line – 100km above Earth which represents the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
What they had at re:MARS was a replica which gave you a good feel of what an astronaut in the capsule goes through.
So you go through the countdown, feel the engines ignite and push you into space. The windows give you the view as you rise above. Then the engines cut off and the capsule separates from the booster rocket. Then you feel the stillness and the weightlessness as your capsule floats in space. You look out at the Blue Planet below and you get a semblance of what astronauts call the Overview Effect.
The Overview Effect, reported by several astronauts, is the cognitive shift in awareness while viewing our home from outer space. When you see this blue dot floating in space, without the borders and boundaries we have divided ourselves with, without our linguistic and cultural differences, without our old and new bigotries, you feel this urge to protect your home.
This is best explained in the worlds of the astronaut Michael Collins from Voyager 11: “The thing that really surprised me was that it [Earth] projected an air of fragility. And why, I don’t know. 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.”
Being on top of the world is a truly wonderful feeling. #robotics #reMars #bezos #space #astronauts #planetearth