We are called to care for the project of being. And that means an appreciation of the minute particulars, an appreciation and a recognition of difference, an appreciation and a recognition of our position in the cosmos—which is both insignificant and paradoxically grandiose at the same time.

Overview Effect

The overview effect refers to the profound emotional and philosophical shift in awareness reported by some astronauts when viewing the Earth from outer space. Looking at our planet from an orbital vantage point, they have a unique chance to see it as a whole, unified system. This perspective allows them to view humankind and its problems in a universal context. Many have reported feeling an intense sense of oneness with their planet and fellow humans, as national borders vanish and the conflicts that divide people suddenly seem inconsequential. Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart commented, “When you go around [the Earth] in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing.” Viewing the Earth from space as a complete ecosystem without divisions, some argue, can lead to increased environmental awareness and a sense of global citizenship and shared identity. Back on Earth, the overview effect would then promote a more unified approach in solving global issues that transcend borders.


Russell Schweickart   (1974)

No Frames, No Boundaries

Astronaut Russell Schweikart speaks about his transformative experience in outer space when a camera malfunctioned and he had an unscheduled moment to contemplate his home planet. During his “glimpse of the big picture” he reflected on the implications of humanity looking back on itself from the perspective of space, and his consciousness began to identify with the whole planet Earth.

David Yaden   (2016)

The Overview Effect

Awe and Self-Transcendent Experience in Space Flight

Viewing the Earth from space has often prompted astronauts to report overwhelming emotion and feelings of identification with humankind and the planet as a whole. In this article, we explore this experience, known as the “overview effect.” We examine astronaut accounts of the overview effect and suggest existing psychological constructs, such as awe and self-transcendent experience, that might contribute to a psychological understanding of this experience. We argue that the overview effect suggests directions for future research on altered states of consciousness in new contexts, with potential implications for better understanding well-being in isolated, confined, extreme (ICE) environments such as space flight.

Frank White   (1987)

The Overview Effect

Space Exploration and Human Evolution

Frank White explores how space exploration transforms human perspectives, leading to a profound shift in consciousness known as the “overview effect.” Astronauts’ experiences of seeing Earth from space highlight interconnectedness and promote environmental awareness, urging humanity to unite for the planet’s well-being. White’s insightful exploration delves into the philosophical and psychological implications of space travel, inspiring readers to contemplate our place in the universe and the potential for positive evolution.