"Once a photograph of the earth, taken from outside, is available . . . a new idea as powerful as any history, will be let loose" – Fred Hoyle, 1948.
The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is a perspective-altering experience that somehow immediately transforms anyone who has been able to see planet earth from afar. After launching into space, the crew of Apollo 8 circled the moon and then turned the camera back on the earth – the image of a pulsing blue-green orb hanging precariously in black space was beamed back to humanity on earth. The crew realized that far more important than journeying to the moon was the sight of the earth from this new angle, forever changing their perspective on the planet and mankind’s place upon it.
Common features of the "Overview Effect" include a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. It's commonly bemoaned that the first "space tourism" flights that could launch in the next decade or so will be available only for the rich and powerful elite. But let us hope that it is they who have the transformational experience of the overview effect.