Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Astronaut's Secret: Space Center Houston Talk



 On June 12, 2019, I gave a talk about "the Astronaut's Secret" at Space Center Houston, the visitors' center for NASA's Johnson Space Center. We began the session by showing "Overview," the excellent film by Planetary Collective.


That is a beautiful film, isn’t it?

We premiered it in 2012 at Harvard University and it’s been seen on Vimeo by more than 8 million people since then—with almost no marketing or advertising.
Why do you think that is? I think it’s because the people of planet Earth are hungry for the message it contains and the message that comes through in my interviews with more than 40 astronauts, several of whom I just finished interviewing here in the past few days, thanks to NASA. 
The Overview Effect is a message from the universe to humanity: it was communicated first to the astronauts when they left planet Earth and viewed the planet from a distance. They saw something that no one in human history had ever seen before. I was then fortunate enough to write about that message in my book, The Overview Effect, and it is now contained in this film by Planetary Collective. The message is that we are one species on one planet with a single destiny and we need to start behaving with that kind of awareness.
Today, people all over the world are trying to figure out how to “bring the Overview Effect down to Earth.” Why? Because they believe the Astronaut’s Secret will transform the thinking of surface dwellers and make the world a better place. 
Let me step back a minute and tell you a little bit about my search for the Astronaut’s Secret and as I tell this story, please think about your own life and your own mission here on planet Earth. 
Today, I am going to share the Astronaut’s Secret with you, and once you know it, you will have an obligation to decide how you will deal with it, because it will change how you see the world forever. The truth is that this is one of those secrets that is hiding in plain sight. The astronauts have done their best to share it with the world, but the world is only now getting ready to hear it.
This story contains the first clue to what the Astronaut’s Secret is. 
When my son was very young, maybe four years old, around 1981, I used to take him to daycare each morning and I found out that Howie, the daycare director, was somewhat interested in space exploration.
I was desperate for an audience in those days to listen to my ideas, so I would bend Howie’s ear with visions of daycare centers in space.
            “Howie, how are you going to keep up with those little kids when they are floating around in zero gravity? How are you going to manage toddlers who don’t toddler? They’re flying around! Can you imagine changing diaper when there’s no gravity?”
            Howie had finally had enough.
            “Frank, why don’t you come give a talk to the kids about space? I’ll invite the staff, too. It’ll be fun.”
            Oh boy, an audience!
            The big day arrived and I spent 5 or 10 minutes telling the children about living on the moon, on Mars, in a space settlement, and so on. At the end, I said, “So how many of you would like to live in space?”
            All hands shot up except one. A little guy named Masaki looked at me and said, “But Mr. White, we are in space.”
            Thank you, Mr. Masaki!
            If you were watching the film carefully, you heard my colleague, David Beaver, say exactly the same thing.
            Yes, we are already in space, we have always been in space, and we will always be in space because we cannot be anywhere else. The Earth is a natural spaceship moving through the universe at a very high rate of speed.
            So, if you have dreamed of “going into space,” congratulations, you have made it, we have all made it. We are in space, right now, this very minute. 
            Perhaps another dream of yours has been to become an astronaut. Well, you have achieved that as well. We humans are theastronauts of Spaceship Earth. We are its crew and it is up to us to see that we achieve its mission.
You see, when our NASA astronauts, and the cosmonauts and taikonauts of other countries climb onto rockets and blast off, they are not really going into space, they are leaving the Earth,which is really quite different. They see that we live on a planet in space, or you might say they see our spaceship.
            As astronaut Jeff Hoffman said in the film, “You see the sun as a star.”
            We know we live on a planet, don’t we? Yes, every child learns that in school. the challenge is that we experience the world just as our ancestors did 500, 1000, even 10,000 years ago: we live on a stable platform that does not move and the heavens rotate above us. The difference between us and the NASA astronauts is that they know it in a different way: they have experienced it. When I interviewed Sandy Magnus, who flew on the very last Shuttle flight, for my book, I asked her what she took away from her spaceflight experience, she focused on the difference between intellectual and experiential knowledge. 
            Specifically, she said:
What you are writing about is really the transformation of the intellectual knowledge that we all have as human beings into an experiential set of knowledge that space exploration can give...

            So, we are in space and the astronauts have experienced this fact directly, but most of us have not.
            This is why I have said that I believe it should be a fundamental human right to experience the Overview Effect, either by physically leaving the planet or through a high quality simulation using virtual reality or a similar tool.
The second clue to the astronaut’s secret is what they seeand what they feel when they are in Earth orbit or on the moon. 
One of the first reactions of astronauts to seeing the Earth from orbit or the moon has been how beautiful our home planet is. 
Alan Shepard, first American to leave the Earth, said: 
No one could be briefed well enough to be completely  prepared  for the astonishing  view that I got. My exclamation about  the“beautiful sight” was completely  spontaneous. It was breathtaking.

ISS and Shuttle astronaut Nicole Stott said:
It is a dynamic, crystal-clear view that just glows, and that doesn’t come across in the pictures and videos. You feel more a part of it when you are looking at it that way. So it was a reaffirmation of what a beautiful and special place the Earth is.

In the film, Jeff Hoffman said it isn’t true that there are no borders or boundaries when you see the Earth from orbit. Well, it is correct that you can see different land uses from orbit, but you don’t see the little dotted lines we see on a map.
This leads to certain ideas about the way we live life on Earth. 
Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart said:
You look down there and you can't imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don't even see them. There you are—hundreds of people in the Mideast killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of and that you can't see. 

From where you see it, the thing  is a whole, and it’s so beautiful. You wish you could take one in each hand, one from each side in the various conflicts, and say, “Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What’s important?”


            They also see how fragile life on Earth really is.
            Many astronauts comment on how very thin the atmosphere seems to be when viewed from orbit. And that is the only thing protecting life on Earth from the harshness of the space environment. Astronaut Nicole Stott has said that the only border that really matters is that thin blue line—the atmosphere—that separates us from the rest of the universe, nurturing life and protecting us from cosmic radiation. 
Astronaut Ron Garan called our planet a “fragile oasis.” He told me:
It’s the perspective that each and every one of us is riding through the universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we’ll all in this together, that we’re all interconnected, that we’re all family and our Spaceship Earth is all we’ve got, a “fragile oasis,” if you will. 
But it isn’t really the Earth that is fragile, it is our human civilization, threatened as it is by so many challenges, such as climate change. In general, astronauts become far more aware of environmental concerns when they return from their time away from home.
            Ultimately, they see the interconnection of all life on Earth and they frequently remark, like Ron Garan, that “we’re all in this together” and must learn to collaborate more effectively. 
            In the words of Shuttle astronaut Don Lind:

You can’t see the boundaries over which we fight wars, and in a very real way, the inhabitants of this Earth  are stuck  on a very beautiful, lovely little  planet in an incredibly hostile space, and everybody is in the same boat. 
            Finally, our astronauts have learned the value of exploration and the surprises it can bring to us in terms of evolution of our awareness of who we are and where we are in the universe. 
            Joe Allen, the first astronaut I interviewed for my book, said:
With  all the arguments, pro and con, for going to the  moon, no one suggested  that we should do it to look at the Earth. But that may in fact be the most important  reason. 
            Are you beginning to see what the Astronaut’s Secret is? Are you picking up on this second clue? The astronauts have a cognitive shift in awareness, in identity, in worldview, and they are never quite the same again. 
            Because they are different people with different backgrounds and belief systems, they may describe the experience in different ways, but there is something that unites all of these responses to this remarkable experience. When I interviewed Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell, he asked me what I had learned in interviewing astronauts and I said that I was surprised at the variety of experiences each person had had. He told me:
The variety in the interpretation of the experience is a lot greater  than  you expected. The experience is the same...The problem  is, how do they interpret it and  how do they express  it?
That comes through the belief system, which is the key to how you see and  interpret all these  events.  

            So, we are in space, we have always been in space, and we will always be in space. However, the only way we can fully grasp this reality is the leave the Earth and look back at our home planet.
            We need one final clue to fully understand the Astronaut’s Secret, which I am now about to reveal to you.
            The clue is this: the astronauts not only see the Earth from a unique vantage point but they also see the universeitself in a way that no other human being has seen it. They see the Earth not only from space but also in space. This realization is at the heart of my book about human purpose in the universe, The Cosma Hypothesis. 
This perception of the universe is especially true of lunar missions. As Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan told me: 
When I was on the moon somewhere out there in the universe, I had to stop and ask myself, “Do you really know where you are in space  and time and history?” 

And Edgar Mitchell said this about going to the Moon:

It gets you closer to a more  universal experience because  of the  distance and  wider view. You identify more with the universe  as it is instead  of the Earth as it is. 

Perhaps now you know what the Astronaut’s Secret is, having heard the third clue, which points out that the astronauts not only saw the Earth in a new way but they also experienced the universe in a new way. 
Not only that, but they also became very comfortable in this supposedly alien environment. As Shuttle astronaut Bonnie Dunbar put it: 
Seeing the Earth from that perspective reinforced my concept of a small fragile planet and a species  needing to come to terms with itself. With successive flights, I have become more at home in space. I miss it. I miss looking down on the Earth and looking out into the universe.

Well, here it is, the quote from Shuttle astronaut Al Sacco, Jr, that finally told me what the Astronaut’s Secret is: 
People ask why you would risk your life to fly in space,  and I tell them it's in response  to a dream and a vision. I tell  them  about  something  I call “The  Astronaut's Secret.” It’s  a realization all  of the  astronauts have, which  is that  we are  a member of the whole human family. It goes beyond even being a citizen of the Earth;  you are really a citizen  of the universe.  When  you are  in orbit,  you ask yourself, “Why  do people  have the differences they have down on Earth?” You see that the Earth is just a small part of a large  universe, and  you have a feeling  about  it that  is hard  to describe. 
For me, being  in orbit  was very comforting. In some ways, I was more comfortable in space than on Earth, and I hated to leave that environment. That is another  part of the astronaut's secret.

     So there you have it: the Astronaut’s Secret is pretty obvious, isn’t it: we are confined, for now, to a single planet, but we are really citizens of the universe. A few of our fellow humans, who have left the Earth, looking back and looking out, tell us that it is remarkably comfortable out there, that they felt at home in the universe.
     This may seem hard to believe—that we are universal beings, not just planetary beings and that we would be more comfortable out there, where there is no air or water, no plants or trees like we have on Earth. But think about this: when you are a baby, in your mother’s womb, it’s warm, comfortable, and pleasant and all of your needs are supplied. When you are born, though, oh wow, there are sounds and lights and all kinds of things happening to you. There is a reason babies cry when they are born! But you soon adjust and would not want to return to the womb.
And think about the fact that after we are born we grow up and become citizens of the country in which we were born. We know that it carries with it certain rights and obligations. We know, too, that if we want to become a citizen of a country where we were not born, we have to take a citizenship test.
     Well, that is what humanity is facing now as we prepare to leave our home planet in large numbers and move out into the solar system. Will we pass the universe’s citizenship test? 
     It’s up to us. Better start studying! 
     Note: All quotes are from The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, AIAA, 2014

For more information on Space Center Houston: https://spacecenter.org

Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved

https://frankwhiteauthor.com



The Importance of Spacebuzz

In the fall of 2017, I was privileged to deliver the keynote address at the first symposium on the Overview Effect. I met a number of very interesting people there, among them Hidde Hoogcarspel. At that time, Hidde had an idea for sharing the Overview Effect experience with children. He imagined a bus that would look like a rocket ship and would drive to the schools of the Netherlands.

My friend and colleague Duncan Mackennzie and I had dinner with Hidde and one of his most enthusiastic backers, Zoran 
van Gessel, in Amsterdam after the symposium.

Hidde described his vision for the "educational rocket ship bus" and Zoran explained why he was supporting it. Zoran is also passionately committed to the World Wildlife Fund and he told us that he believes the dissemination of the Overview Effect is essential to the success of organizations like his.

Now, about two years later, Hidde's brainchild, "SpaceBuzz," has the support of ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers, and the bus actually exists. They are getting a lot of good media coverage and are looking to expand the effort beyond the Netherlands, with other countries, including the United States, as future areas of expansion.

https://interestingengineering.com/the-overview-effect-seeing-earth-from-above-can-inspire-change

It is so important that we share the Overview Effect with children because they will be open to it and it will be a part of their thinking as they grow into adults who must take responsibility for this planet and, eventually, the solar system.

Congratulations, Hidde!

Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved

https://frankwhiteauthor.com







Friday, April 26, 2019

Sean McClinton's Review of The Cosma Hypothesis

Sean and I have known each other for quite a while now and we talk frequently about the future of space tourism and space exploration in general. Here are his thoughts about The Cosma Hypothesis:

"At the Space Entrepreneurs in Seattle, WA, we are focused on the 'what' of space exploration---the 'what' being helping people advance their careers in space.  Frank White has done an amazingly thorough job of exploring the 'why' of space exploration in The Cosma Hypothesis.  

"As Simon Sinek would say, it starts with 'why.' We have the option to do things as we have always done them, or we could pursue a higher destiny and be a better version of ourselves through space exploration.  It's my firm belief that reading The Cosma Hypothesis will help you more firmly ground your reasons for exploring space in the 'why,' and at a more planet-wide level. We all have our own reasons for being interested in space exploration, but Cosma will help you understand those within our society and the world as a whole.  As a world-renowned space philosopher and author of the now cult classic The Overview Effect, Frank takes his thinking to the next level about what this all means. 

"With the rise of the commercialization of space, it's important that we think consciously about why we do this, so we can better inform our 'how,' and Frank helps us do just that in The Cosma Hypothesis." 

---Sean McClinton

Sean is the founder and organizer of the Space Entrepreneurs network in Seattle, WA, a network designed to help people accelerate their careers in space.  He also founded the company SpaceToTravel, a space-related travel services company designed to help people get more out of their travel lives, using space. You can follow him at @sean_mcclinton.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

More from Kevin Kelley

As I have said in an earlier post, I have known Kevin for many years, dating back to the late 1980s, when he published The Home Planet and I published The Overview Effect.

 Kevin is also a founding member of the Overview Institute, which was established in 2008.

More recently, he reviewed early drafts of The Cosma Hypothesis.  Here is another comment he has  now made on the book:

"Whether you are a humanity-in-space geek or never gave it much thought, this book will leave you thinking and wondering for a very long time.

"Frank White proves and evolves Goethe’s statement that: 'Every object, well contemplated, opens up a new organ of perception within us.' But Frank’s fourth-dimensional evolution begets a Klein bottle where Cosmos, organ of perception, and we, are One." 

—Kevin Kelley

KEVIN W. KELLEY is an artist, entrepreneur, and author of New York Times and international best-selling book The Home Planet (1988)—a large-format book of stunning photographs of Earth taken from space, accompanied by quotations from astronauts and cosmonauts reflecting on the profound effect of experiencing the planet  from the perspective of  outer space. 

The Home Planet and Frank White’s The Overview Effect were published contemporaneously. Both attempted to interpret the astronaut experience, one primarily with pictures and the other through words.

Kelley’s musings about our place in the cosmos have resulted in the development of Infinitaas™, a revolutionary way to visualize our journey through time, space  and evolution. Infinitaas will be a real-time, interactive, visualization technology for exploring and conveying Big History and Earth Systems Science.

Once again, the two authors’ visions link up: White describing in words and Kelley evoking imagery that conveys understanding and experience.

(The Cosma Hypothesis is available on Kindle, Audible, and in print on Amazon.com)


Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Kevin Kelley on " The Cosma Hypothesis"

I have known Kevin for many years, dating back to the late 1980s, when he published The Home Planet and I published The Overview Effect.

 Kevin also is  a founding member of the Overview Institute, which was established in 2008.

  More recently, he commented on early drafts of The Cosma Hypothesis.  Here is one of his comments on the book:

"The Cosma Hypothesis is the Bible and Master Plan for the real Star Trek!

"If you have ever imagined going into space or wished to see humanity trek to distant stars, planets, and galaxies—well, this is the book for you!  

"In his passion for seeing humanity spread into space, Frank White offers the concepts, rationales, purposes, and even a comprehensive visionary master plan for starting the Human Space Program immediately, tomorrow!" 

—Kevin Kelley

KEVIN W. KELLEY is an artist, entrepreneur, and author of New York Times and international best-selling book The Home Planet (1988)—a large-format book of stunning photographs of Earth taken from space, accompanied by quotations from astronauts and cosmonauts reflecting on the profound effect of experiencing the planet  from the perspective of  outer space. 

The Home Planet and Frank White’s The Overview Effect were published contemporaneously. Both attempted to interpret the astronaut experience, one primarily with pictures and the other through words.

Kelley’s musings about our place in the cosmos have resulted in the development of Infinitaas™, a revolutionary way to visualize our journey through time, space  and evolution. Infinitaas will be a real-time, interactive, visualization technology for exploring and conveying Big History and Earth Systems Science.

Once again, the two authors’ visions link up: White describing in words and Kelley evoking imagery that conveys understanding and experience.

(The Cosma Hypothesis is available on Kindle, Audible, and in print on Amazon.com)


Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved



Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rick Tumlinson on The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect

Rick and I go way back, to the early days of the space movement and meetings at Gerard K. O'Neill's Space Studies Institute. We are both committed to developing a new philosophy of space exploration and have been working with Dylan Taylor on developing the 2211.world website, which is dedicated to that task (Dylan is also publishing Cosma). Most recently, Rick has founded SpaceFund, an initiative to "tokenize space."

I asked Rick to review Cosma and write something about the book. He did, and I had planned to tweet out a portion of it, but decided that it would not do justice to his comments.

So here is what he said, as well as some details about Rick's current work:

In today’s world, everything is seen through narrow lenses. Left, right, class, gender, race, nation—forcing us to focus not on who we are but who we are not. In Cosma, Frank White blows past all of this. In fact, he shatters all lenses, tears down the walls, blows the roof off, and throws us out into the universe. And then, from the same vantage point of the astronauts from whom he derived the Overview Effect, floating in the infinite stillness of space, he contemplates the ultimate question of our role in that universe. His answer is both awesome and inspiring, and were it to become the driving force in our culture would change everything, by bringing us all together—for as Frank makes clear—we Are the Universe.

Rick Tumlinson is a writer, speaker, and one of the creators of the space revolution that has the goal of settling the Solar System. He recently started SpaceFund, the world’s first tokenized venture capital fund for space. You can follow him @RocketRick.

Thanks, Rick!

(The Cosma Hypothesis is available on Kindle and Audible now and the print version is available for pre-order, with a March 12 publication date, on Amazon.com)



Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved







Monday, December 24, 2018

Apollo 8 and the Overview Effect: Part Two

Many contemporary commentators on the Overview Effect imply that it began with the Earthrise photo. They say things like, "When humans first saw the Earth from space..." as if it was at that moment on the Apollo 8 mission that the Overview Effect became a reality.

In fact, it was on the Apollo 8 mission that we first saw the whole Earth from space in an image sent to us by astronauts (there had been some less remarkable photos sent by probes that were not piloted).
However, strictly speaking, the first true experience of the Overview Effect took place when Yuri Gagarin went into orbit in 1961.

However, this perception is a testimony to how powerful this image really is. The iconic picture snapped by Bill Anders, with a little help from his fellow crew members, has taken its place among media that have reshaped our views of ourselves and our place in the universe. Alongside that photo is "the Blue Marble" picture shot by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972 and the "pale blue dot" image transmitted to us by the Voyager I spacecraft in 1990.

In terms of impact, "Earthrise" has been highly significant. At a recent conference in the Netherlands, Big History expert Fred Spier gave a talk on how the photo was received in the United States and abroad. He also told us that it changed his life and set him on the path of attempting to grasp "the big picture" ever since.

A few days ago, four astronauts and their colleagues held a celebration of Earthrise at the Kennedy Space Center and launched the Constellation Foundation and its new project, "Earth2068." The Overview Effect has been  referenced as an inspiration for the event and Nicole Stott and Ron Garan, two astronauts who were interviewed for my book, are founders. (Ron wrote the foreword to the third edition of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution and Nicole has written the foreword to the fourth edition.)

These are just a couple of the ways that Earthrise has influenced subsequent events since that difficult year, 1968. We have just gone through another difficult year for many people on Spaceship Earth. However, speaking as one who experienced both 1968 and 2018, can I say our world is better because of that photo?

Yes!

Copyright, Frank White, 2018, All Rights Reserved

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at aiaa.org and amazon.com 


The New Camelot: the Quest for the Overview Effect is available at Apogee Prime




http://www.cgpublishing.com/prime/bookpages/9781926837383.html