In December of 1968, the first human voyage to the moon catapulted the population of Earth into a new era of space exploration and self-reflection. It was during this voyage that astronauts Bill Anders and Jim Lovell recognized a familiar pale blue dot in the distance and snapped a photo, providing us with the first view of Earth from this distant vantage point. Since its release, this image has been the subject of various works of art and literature. After having seen the Earth from space, some astronauts reported a cognitive shift in awareness about the planet. This shift helped them recognize the fragility of Earth and has inspired feelings of global citizenship. Thanks to the writings of author Frank White, we now call this shift, “The Overview Effect.”
The Media Lab’s Space Enabled research group asks if it is possible to create a similar cognitive shift in Earthlings through an experiential installation piece meant to inspire global citizenship as well as universal citizenship. “Earthrise: A 50 Year Contemplation” will celebrate the original Earthrise photo by creating a meditative space of reflection where participants are transported to the surface of Earth’s moon to reflect on themselves, Earth, and the solar system. The viewer will be immersed in the sensory experience that surrounds them. Through artificially creating “The Overview Effect,” and altering our perspective, might we also inspire a more sustainable approach in our exploration of the solar system?
Frank White, author of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, is launching “The Human Space Program" through his new book, The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect (Emergent Media; February 2019). The goal of the Human Space Program is to create a comprehensive, sustainable, and inclusive plan for exploring and developing the solar system. It is built around White’s “Cosma Hypothesis,” which addresses the question, “What is the purpose of human space exploration? Why has the evolutionary process brought humanity to the brink of becoming a spacefaring species?” White’s surprising conclusion: Homo sapiens have a very significant role to play in the evolution of the universe (Cosma). Space Enabled appreciates the opportunity to dialogue with Frank about these fundamental questions shaping the moral compass of human exploration beyond earth.
By Lizbeth B. De La Torre, Rachael Petersen, Frank White and Danielle Wood