Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Living in Space

If you ask most "space enthusiasts" whether they would like to live in space, they will say, "Yes!" If you tell them that they are already living in space, it may take a while for them to understand what you mean.

Language is important. How we say things influences how we think about them. Ever since I wrote The Overview Effect, I have been working on creating the understanding within myself that we are already in space. We are in space, we have always been in space, and we will always be in space because the Earth is in space and can't be anywhere else. (In the book, I tell the story of a young man in a daycare center who helped me to see the importance of this insight.)

The challenge before us is to find ways to be elsewhere in the universe. Right now, we are more or less imprisoned on this planet. It is a beautiful prison, and one that we can enjoy greatly. However, we are not yet free to leave it if we want to do so.

What we are really talking about is finding a way for those of us who want to do so to leave the Earth, and be in space in a different way. Not everyone will go, of course. Sometimes, when there is a prison break, some of the prisoners stay inside. Sometimes, when the restless members of a society go exploring, others stay at home.

In the meantime, though, how would it change our lives to just relax a bit and realize that we are in space. Another methphor, coined by Buckminster Fuller, is that we are on Spaceship Earth, traveling through the universe at a high rate of speed.

As I pointed out in The Overview Effect, everyone on the spaceship is either a passenger or a crew member ("Terranaut"). Wouldn't you rather be a Terranaut?

Frank White

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What Apollo Was About

I was watching the Apollo 11 celebration in Washington on NASA TV last night, and I saw something significant as I looked at the logo for the 40th anniversary of the landing. Now, remember that the Apollo effort was supposedly all about going to the moon. However, as shuttle astronaut Joe Allen said in the interview that he granted for my book, The Overview Effect, "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."

It seems that whoever designed the logo for the Apollo 11 celebration knew that Allen was right, because the scene is not a view of the moon. It is, rather, a view of the Earth as seen from the moon. The perspective is from the lunar surface, with the numbers 4 and 0 in the foreground, and the Earth rising on the horizon within the 0. Think about all the choices that NASA had in designing that logo, all the people who had to participate in approving it, and in the end, think about the fact that they chose to make the view of the Earth, the Overview Effect, the centerpiece.

Now, imagine all the arguments pro and con, for going to Mars. Could it be that we will eventually realize that the real reason was to see the Earth from the surface of the red planet? And what will the logo look like for the 40th anniversary of that landing?

Frank White