Saturday, January 11, 2020

Brian Barnett's review of The Cosma Hypothesis

Brian Barnett, founder and CEO of Solstar Space Company, is one of the original "Overviewers," having read the first edition of The Overview Effect shortly after it was published. He was kind enough to write a review of The Cosma Hypothesis on Amazon, and I am sharing it here:

I read Frank White's Overview Effect way back in 1988. The Overview Effect was, and still is, the most important book ever written in our generation about how space travelers are changed upon returning to Earth. Those who have flown in space and have seen our beautiful blue planet hanging in the midst of the vast darkness of space feel different about how humanity sits vis-a-vis the universe. White's Cosma Hypothesis takes the Overview Effect even further out into the universe. He is the most important writer tackling this incredibly deep topic---he is one of a kind. I think with Cosma he is onto something.

Thanks, Brian!

(The Cosma Hypothesis is available in print, and on Kindle and Audible (

Blog: Copyright, (c), Frank White, 2020, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Jeff Krukin's Review of The Cosma Hypothesis

Jeff and I have worked in space advocacy together for many years. Among other things, he is a founding member of the Overview Institute and is now active in NewSpace. He was kind enough to read and review The Cosma Hypothesis. Here is his review:

"Do you believe that space exploration is a waste of time and money because we have so many pressing problems on Earth?  Or, perhaps you support space exploration and settlement, yet are uncomfortable with the commercial aspects and potential for war in space.  In either case, a different perspective might help.  Frank White's new book, The Cosma Hypothesis:  Implications of the Overview Effect, takes an expansive look at how we human beings... our daily lives, our minds, our spirituality... are connected with the Universe (Cosmos).  Simply put, we are not separate from the Cosmos, and so the exploration and settlement of our solar system is not just something going on out there that has no impact on ourselves "back here."

"And I don't just mean the scientific and commercial benefits that will accrue to our societies and economies.  Think bigger.  Frank asks us to ponder how human activity in space not only impacts our own consciousness and self-awareness (The Overview Effect), but is essential for evolving the conscious intelligence (Frank calls this "contelligence") of the Cosmos itself.  Consider this passage from the book (p.55):  "As far as we know, new atoms are not constantly being created, so the evolution of the universe consists of these atoms being rearranged into increasingly more complex information processing systems.  The human brain is one of those systems."

"Finally, on a more practical note, Frank provides a plan for action with The Human Space Program project (not to be confused with any government's space program).

"Make sense?  You'll enjoy the book.  Sound crazy?  Read the book anyway, and see if it does something for you." 

Jeff Krukin
Earth-Space Commerce Advisors, LLC

(The Cosma Hypothesis is available in print, and on Kindle and Audible (

Blog: Copyright, (c), Frank White, 2020, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Why We Need a Human Space Program (1)

“This first launch of a space system designed for humans, and built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership, is a revolutionary step on our path to get humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. NASA Press Release – March 2, 2019
There’s no question that humans, powered by a potent combination of private enterprise and public funding, are leaving the Earth and heading out into the solar system. But are we ready, both philosophically and pragmatically, for the challenges that lie ahead?
Consider this: for years, American cities and towns have celebrated Columbus Day on October 12 of each year. Recently, there has been a shift as municipalities abandoned Columbus Day in favor of “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
This would be a story in itself but something truly remarkable happened in 2018. Columbus, Ohio, named for the 15thcentury explorer, also abandoned him and adopted the new terminology. What happened? How did Columbus go from being a hero to being a villain? Did he do something wrong? No, he’s been dead for a very long time, so he couldn’t have done anything to alienate even his namesake city. In fact, our consciousness has changed because we have realized that he was a great exploiter as well as an intrepid explorer.
What if Columbus had set off across the Atlantic with a very different philosophy of exploration. Suppose he had anticipated the Prime Directive that was the foundation of the Star Trek franchise 500 years later?  What if noninterference in the evolution of other cultures had guided his actions in the so-called New World?
That was then, this is now, but there are remarkable similarities and the stakes are high.
We face choices today that will determine the trajectory of space exploration for decades to come as humanity migrates into the solar system. In fact, our future in space is really the human future. Our underlying philosophy about this great adventure matters because it will shape our behavior. So will Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos be seen as heroes or villains by our descendants in 500 years? A lot depends on how and why we go about it.
For example, we are about to see the advent of a new Space Age, when companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Blue Origin will take anyone with the price of a ticket into space. Becoming an astronaut will no longer require that you have the “Right Stuff.”
·      Can we democratize space exploration, supporting trips for artists, scientists, clergy, global leaders, and the rest of us? Can we benefit from the Overview Effect – the experience of seeing the Earth without national boundaries? Can we see our home planet as a spaceship making its way through a universe that humanity is exploring more than it is exploiting? Having interviewed Sir Richard Branson for my book, The Overview Effect, I believe he wants to do just that, making space travel available to all and to the benefit of Earth. Earlier this year, the president of Virgin, speaking at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, said:

“The more people that see the Earth from above, the more change you can make on Earth,”                                                     
·      How will we confront controversies that are looming on asteroid mining rights, space junk, militarization of space, and other important issues or should we just leave it as a “free for all?” 
·    Is space exploration primarily about making money, touting national prestige, or advancing the evolution of our species and the universe?

These aren’t theoretical debates about the future. We are making choices today that are creating our future. Will the advocates of space exploration today be seen as heroes by their descendants? The answer depends not on our rockets but rather on our decisions.

Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved


Sunday, August 25, 2019

What's Wrong with a Space Force?

President Trump has signed a directive  creating a “Space Force,” a new branch of service for the United States  that will be a part of the Air Force (France has recently announced that they will follow suit).

Citing the dangers posed to the country by the ambitions of other nations in the space environment, the president’s support for such a force is consistent with his “America First” policies.

The directive said the following:

“Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict.” 

 While many anti-Trump observers opposed the creation of the Space Force without giving much detail about their concerns, there was also opposition within the Pentagon to the whole idea. The Air Force, in particular, which has its own Space Command, did not look kindly on the idea and won a major battle when the new organization was placed under its structure, similar to the Marines’ relationship to the Navy.

Some have said that creation of the Space Force heightens the possibility of war in space, which may well be true, but it is not inevitable. That depends on civilian leaders, not the Space Force itself.

And fighting wars on the Earth increasingly depends on space assets, especially satellites. It is not unreasonable to assign someone to make sure that those assets are protected from an adversary.  

So what, you might say, is wrong with the Space Force?

 My concern is not with the existence of the organization or the cost of it. My issue is with the language that is necessarily being used to justify the creation of this new branch of service.  President Trump has justified the force because of threats, not opportunities. In other words, as he looks outward to the solar system, does he contemplate working with the Chinese or the Russians on joint expeditions to the Moon or Mars, or does he focus more on how these countries could harm the United States? This marks a change in rhetoric from that of presidents over the past 50 years.

 Those of us who have advocated space exploration as a great adventure for humanity have often argued that it could be an opportunity for adversaries to cooperate in unprecedented ways. Contrast President Trump’s rhetoric with that of John F. Kennedy in his historic speech at Rice University in 1962 when he said: "There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again." (

President Kennedy went further, viewing collaboration in space exploration as a way to unwind the Cold War. While he was committed to winning the space race to the Moon, he reached out to the Soviet leadership many times before his assassination, suggesting to them that Apollo might be a joint mission and even a multinational endeavor.

 So we had an opportunity in the early days of Apollo to begin a grand collaborative effort by all the nations of the Earth to explore the universe rather than to pursue a competitive zero-sum game. Now, as we contemplate mass migration out into the solar system, we have the same set of choices. Will we compete for resources and prestige or will we come together as a planet and as a species and go forward "in peace for all mankind?"

The military can play a positive role as humanity expands its reach beyond our home planet. They know how to operate in hostile environments and are adept at protecting civilian populations, when ordered to do so. Come to think of it, how about a Space Force drawn from all the nations of the world, with the mission of supporting a positive evolution of humanity into the universe?

 Perhaps there is nothing wrong with a Space Force except the words that are used to justify it. But words have meaning, don’t they?

Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved

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:

Copyright, Frank White, 2019, All Rights Reserved

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.

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

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.