About three years ago I had the opportunity to start an informal collaboration with Frank White, co-founder of ‘The Overview Institute’ and author of ‘The Overview Effect’, a book that has been recently published in its second edition and that in my opinion should be read in schools. The book describes the long lasting effect produced by the sight of the Earth seen from Space on the mind of the astronauts. It is well documented that watching our planet from a great distance generates a deeper awareness of Earth’s globality, with its geographical, political and social boundaries disappearing. It is no surprise that the iconic ‘Blue Marble’ image, taken during the last manned mission to the Moon in 1972, helped changing the perception of our planet, becoming a symbol for the ecological movement in the seventies. The ‘Blue Marble’ picture is part of a series of images of Earth seen from Space taken during manned Space explorations.
Talking about the first photo of the Earth taken from the Moon’s orbit in 1966, Jay Friedlander, a NASA photographic technician said “You’re looking at your home from this really foreign kind of desolate landscape…It’s the first time you’re actually looking at Earth as a different kind of place” We’re on this little Earth. We’re only part of some grand solar system in some big galaxy and universe. That’s why this picture is important, because this was the first time that anyone on Earth got this sense”. (http://www.space.com/12707-earth-photo-moon-nasa-lunar-orbiter-1-anniversary.html). Nearly all astronauts who have experienced seeing the Earth from outer space report a lasting globalization of awareness concerning environmental, political and social issues. Astronaut Gerald Carr has said, “Most of us come back with an interest in ecology. You came back feeling a little more humanitarian”. “I’m sure this is a commonly related thing”, said Mark Garneau, “you become more of a global citizen.” Edgar Mitchell, who dedicated part of his life to the study of spirituality, as a result of his experience as an astronaut, and who sadly died last night, sums it up quite powerfully: “We went to the Moon as technicians. We returned as humanitarians“.
A few days ago I went to visit the Columbus Theatre which opened very recently in Kerkrade in The Netherlands. The long journey was well worth the visit. It is one of the few places in the world at the moment that offers an experience as close as possible to that of the Overview Effect. After watching an educational video in a Star Trek replica room, equipped with state of the art screens, I was accompanied into a huge circular room, caved in the middle and I was invited to stand against a glass balustrade looking into the void of the deep hole. Lights switched off and the immersive video started: cleverly projected into the void, the video gives the strong feeling of floating above Earth and watching our planet from the cupola of the International Space Station, it is a very close experience to that of embodying the privileged position of the astronaut inside the station, while looking outside at the Earth. Our planet is portrayed in all its beauty and precious life, leaving the viewer in awe by the end of the projection.
The building hosting the Columbus Theatre was first envisioned in 2012 and was opened to the public very recently, with a launch event featuring Frank White himself talking about ‘The Overview Effect’. Besides the Columbus Theatre, the Museum offers a very interesting exhibit of interactive scientific installations for experiencing first hand the latest development in technology, robotics and biology. A ride well worth the time. For planning your visit to the Columbus Theatre please visit the website: http://www.columbusearththeater.nl/.