Saturday, October 14, 2017

A New Initiative

I want everyone to know that I am participating in a new initiative to bring strategic communications services to entrepreneurial space companies. Brodeur Partners, a communications firm located in Boston, has recently launched the Brodeur Space Group, and I will be working with them as a senior consultant.

We will be holding a free webinar on communications challenges for entrepreneurial space companies on October 18 at 1 pm EST. All are invited and you can register here:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Overview Effect for Children


I wanted to let everyone know about this project, which is being created by Hidde Hoogcarspel in the Netherlands. If you are interested in supporting this work, please get in touch with Hidde at hidde.hoogcarspel@gmail.com

This is his description of the project:

Space Project
This project is an initiative together with André Kuipers . Wubbo Ockels In his last words, he has shown the core of what we want to achieve very well: https://youtu.be/vyePrNzZZxc.

This concept is called 'overview effect' and causes astronauts to fundamentally change their worldview. The term and concept were coined in 1987 by Frank White, who explored the theme in his book The Overview Effect. Research has shown that their mindset has changed significantly since their return to the Earth, with consequent consequences for their attitude and behavior.

The idea is to convey this 'overview effect' to children by actually launching them through virtual and augmented reality so that they can see the planet from space. This creates a generation that has a fundamentally different look and feel to our planet and is capable of being in her splendor for the coming ages.

The reason we want this is that one of the biggest challenges we face regarding our planet is not the development or deployment of the latest technology. We have never been so knowledgeable and innovative. The biggest challenge is whether we are able to fundamentally change our mindset, attitude and behavior. This has proved to be one of the most rebellious things.

Our approach is therefore complementary to initiatives such as the Plastic Soup. They focus on the use of the latest technology to restore what caused man. We have the ambition to reduce the causative behavior of people by constantly changing their mindset. One of the world's most inspiring experiences is the basis for this.

Latest VR / AR technology combined with an education program
Multi-media agency Media Monks develops the Overview effect experience. They specialize in virtual and augmented reality productions. To make it practical and achievable for all children, we create a spaceship / rocket on a durable truck / trailer with moveable chairs and the latest 3D virtual reality headsets. This rocket goes free along the schools, with an education program developed (training, experience, feedback) to ensure that the impact is as high as possible and lasting.

Millions of children worldwide
After consultation with schools and education experts, we have chosen children in group 7 (age range 10 to 11 years) because scientific research shows that children of this age start to think about this type of business.
The concept is developed that it is relatively easy to roll out country for country. The concept will be open source and available free of charge. André will give a presentation to his colleague astronauts at the annual meeting of astronauts this year in France. He will therefore call on other astronauts to embark locally as ambassadors.

Funding
Our concrete goal is to fully develop and fund one project in the Netherlands (required: EUR 800,000). However, the concept is open source and will be made available for free so that it can be rolled out worldwide. 

The 'overview effect' foundation will be established as ANBI status (Public Benefit Organisation), making donations deductible.

On November 11th we will officially present the entire project in the Ziggo Dome at the multimedia show of Andre Kuipers. We would like to make an appointment with anyone who is interested to further explain the project.

What makes this project different?

Numerous global initiatives focus on implementing the latest technology and science to restore the effects of human behavior. The Plastic Soup Project cleans up oceans, polluted by our own human actions. The WWF and the likes focuses on restoring rainforest and protection of animals, destroyed by human populations.

Our project has a different angle: we have the ambition to create a fundamental shift in mindset, attitude and behavior by using one of history’s most impactful experiences: the overview effect. Therefor helping millions of children worldwide to find a different angle, mindset and attitude in living and keeping our small, little but very precious planet.

Our partners
We are very happy and proud that we found Andre Kuipers and Bas Beerens to stand behind our initiative. Both are examples of persons being personally inspired by their dreams that seemed unreachable. One was the dream of becoming one of the world's 550 astronauts, the other creating a tool used in every country of the world. Both persons are also known for their profound knowledge and expertise in inspiring people to change their view and behaviour in the world we live in.

Helen Kuipers, André's wife, and Zoran van Gessel (founder Bencis) made themselves available to the board of the foundation. Bas Beerens (founder of Wetransfer) has embraced the project and, for the time being, together with André is the Committee of Recommendation. Both for the Board and for the Recommendation Committee we are looking for further details and coordination with sponsors and stakeholders.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cosmism and Cosmocentrism

As I have been exploring the notion of cosmocentrism, I have been drawn to a group of space philosophers I discovered while writing The Overview Effect. These Russian thinkers in the 19th century developed the idea of cosmism, an idea that included not only the exploration of outer space but also the perfection of humanity.

I wrote about the Russian Cosmists in The Overview Effect, but primarily to demonstrate the philosophical roots of the Soviet space program, as compared with the American. Nikolai Fyodorov, chief librarian in Moscow, espoused ideas so similar to my own that I no longer consider my concepts to be at all radical. Here is a passage I quoted in the book:

"The nineteenth-century  Russian philosopher of space,  Nikolai  Fyodorov, developed  the  idea  of the com­mon task, basing it on a series of striking concepts:


The root idea ... is that human  beings  do not have their  natural horne on Earth;  rather  they are organisms  whose ecosystem  is more properly the whole cosmos.... In Fyodorov's view, everything is alive, from the gigantic suns  of distant  galaxies  to the smallest pebble  under  our feet here  on Earth. Everything is organic:  the  biggest  difference between the life of rocks and the life of human  beings is that they live at differ­ ent  velocities in  time  and  at  different degrees of consciousness in space. Because  people  have consciousness in the highest  degree,  it is their  task to “regulate nature,” not just here on Earth,  but throughout the universe.  2

Fyodorov was a true space philosopher!"


This line of thinking is very similar to what I have expressed in my new book, The Cosma Hypothesis. I wouldn't say I agree with everything Fyodorov had to say, but I like his effort to understand human purpose in the universe. In particular, it is fascinating to see how he turns our idea of "home" on its head, suggesting that we are really cosmic creatures, not Earthlings.

Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that Fyodorov's philosophical thought was translated into practical planning for spaceflight by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

To be Continued.

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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



Monday, August 28, 2017

"All Of Us Will Be Cosmocentrists"

For much of recorded history, everyone simply agreed that the sun and the rest of the universe revolved around the Earth. It wasn't a matter of debate and you didn't need to be an astronomer to see that the Earth was a stable platform and the sun, planets, and stars rose and set in the sky in predictable patterns.

There was this little problem with the planets, though. Their motion wasn't that smooth, really. As astronomers observed and recorded their movements through the sky, it became clear that they did some strange things like backing up!

They called it retrograde motion and made up all kinds of explanations for it that preserved the geocentric universe to which they were conceptually wedded. Eventually, though, Copernicus and Kepler made it clear that a heliocentric solar system, with the Sun at the center, would simplify the model and eliminate the anomalies.

I believe the same kind of shift will eventually occur with humans in this century. While we are accustomed to seeing the universe from a very narrow perspective located on Earth, it will become clear that the cosmic perspective is the broadest and most effective way to consider the human place in the universe.

Space exploration, from the work that is accomplished by Earth-based astronomers to the robot probes crawling across the surface of Mars to human spaceflight and off-planet settlements expands our awareness of who we are and where we are in the universe. As this expansion continues, I believe we will, increasingly, see ourselves as "citizens of the universe."

And we won't think of it as being something extraordinary.

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"I Am a Cosmocentrist"

What does it mean to be a cosmocentrist? It means that you look at everything from the perspective of the greatest whole system of which we can be aware, which is the cosmos, or universe. The universe is evolving, and we human beings are evolving with it. It is understandable and somewhat appropriate that we are incredibly anthropocentric, ie, focusing on humanity, because that is where our consciousness is at the moment.

However, we now know enough about the universe of which we are a part to start identifying with it. I have noted that many of the astronauts interviewed for my book, The Overview Effect, speak about the universe almost as much as they speak about the Earth.

I am now working on a new book, The Cosma Hypothesis, and in it, I am documenting what astronauts have said about their perceptions of the universe as a result of their spaceflights. One of the most significant quotes in that regard comes from Al Sacco, Jr., a shuttle payload specialist. It was in The Overview Effect, but I think it is even more relevant to The Cosma Hypothesis.


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. Once you get into space,  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.

Al Sacco, Jr., in The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, Frank White, AIAA, 2014

I hope this quote will explain why I am a cosmocentrist and why all of us are likely to become cosmocentrists as more people experience the Overview Effect.

(To be continued.)

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Cosmocentric Perspective

Since concluding that our next step conceptually is to see the world from a cosmocentric, rather than anthropocentric perspective, I have become increasingly convinced that this is the key to everything else. If we, as a species, do not adopt a cosmocentric perspective, we will be missing out on the essence of our own reality.

The reality is that our species is part of a universe. While I realize that we are facing a great challenge in getting humans to think of themselves as part of a planet, I do not think we should hold off on looking to the even greater challenge of considering ourselves as part of the universe. Truth is truth, after all.

If we take a cosmocentric perspective, we will be looking beyond our individual lives to something larger than ourselves and it will inevitably change how we view our individual existences.

More on this later. But just keep in mind the simple fact that the cosmocentric perspective changes everything.

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Impact of The New Camelot

Apogee Prime has been kind enough to publish The New Camelot: The Quest for the Overview Effect. It has now moved from being available on Kindle to being available in print.

Recently, I have been in touch with an outstanding writer named Steve Finegan, who is pioneering a new genre of fiction that he and I are calling Overview Effect Fiction, or Overview Fiction.
 Here is what he had to say about The New Camelot after reading it:

"The Overview Experience as the Holy Grail. That iconic image of Earth floating in the vastness of space is something akin to a religious or archetypal symbol, filled with motive power, a power symbol, which brings to mind the Grail, yes, but also the Christian Cross, only the Earth symbolizes a new unifying myth for this “Space Age” in which we live. As such it operates on two levels simultaneously: 1) it acts as the catalyst for a transcendent mass movement directed outward and reaching forward in time (evolution) and space (exploration), and 2) it also reaches downward into the individual's very marrow and releases those latent, pent-up powers immanent within each and every one of us. The universe within." 

I think we need more of the mythological spirit, the kind that informed the stories about King Arthur and Camelot, as we begin to explore the solar system and the universe that lies beyond. Space exploration is a grand adventure, a quest, a tribute to the human spirit. Let's give it a context that recognizes this reality!

To read The New Camelot, please go to: http://www.cgpublishing.com/prime/bookpages/9781926837383.html

To learn more about the work of Steve Finegan, go to: http://www.stevefinegan.com


(c) Copyright, Frank White, All Rights Reserved, 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Tribute to Ken Cox

One of the great leaders of the space exploration movement died recently. Ken Cox worked on the Apollo program and he founded the Advanced Technology Working Group as a part of NASA.

Ken brought together an eclectic group of thinkers at ATWG, and a number of books and ideas emerged from their deliberations. On a very personal note, the key was that Ken invited me to a number of the meetings and I participated enthusiastically. Even more important, though, he played a critical role in keeping the idea of the Overview Effect alive.

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution had been published in 1987 by Houghton-Mifflin, a leading mainline publisher. I had harbored high hopes for its success, and held a vision that it would start a revolution in thinking about space exploration and the human future.

Instead, we had what is called a "critical success" but a "financial failure." The first edition of about 7500 copies sold out, and the book was translated into German. However, this was not enough to justify a second edition or going into paperback. I suppose that would have been the end of the Overview Effect as a book if Ken hadn't stepped in.

A friend of mine suggested I get in touch with Ken because he was pulling together a group of people to talk about the softer side of space exploration: politics, economics, philosophy, and so on. When I did contact him, I received a warm welcome from Ken and an invitation to a gathering in Washington, DC.

It turned out that Ken admired my work and wanted the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to publish a second edition of the book.

He was on the board of AIAA, and he contacted their publishing team about taking on the second edition. The Overview Effect was somewhat outside their area of interest, which focused more on the engineering/technical aspects of spaceflight, but they agreed to take on the book, and we published the second edition in 1998.

AIAA is still the publisher of The Overview Effect, and the third edition came out in 2014. To my surprise and delight, my editor has now approved a fourth edition!

Robbie Davis-Floyd, another ATWG member, Ken, and I also worked together on a book called Space Stories, which is a great compendium of stories from the early pioneers of the Space Age. It is now on Kindle.

Ken played a major role in bringing us to where we are today in space exploration and development, and he kept the flame of the Overview Effect alive during its darkest days. Most of all, though, he was a smart, kind, and funny colleague.

Thank you, Ken, for all you did for me and for humanity!

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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




Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Breakthrough

Recently, I have been exploring a few ideas that have come together to produce something of a breakthrough.

The first has been thinking about how it took thousands of years for people to let go of the geocentric view of the solar system and adopt a heliocentric view, as proposed by Copernicus. It took a long time to make that simple change, but it made a huge difference when it happened.

The second has been writing my book, The Cosma Hypothesis, which presents the argument that as we explore the universe, we need to give as much to the universe as we take from it. I felt that there was something going on here that was analogous to the Copernican Revolution, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

The third has been a review of the book Space Abundance for Humankind's Needs, by Bob Krone and members of his family. I wanted to bring the Hypothesis into the review and note that we should consider what we can give to the universe in tapping its abundance, as well as what we can take for ourselves.

All of this coalesced recently with the notion that we need to move from an anthropocentric view of space exploration and development to a cosmocentric view. Perhaps that might be analogous to the shift that Copernicus started back in the 16th century. Only time will tell if it is that significant.

I am not sure, at this moment, what this idea means in practical terms, but understanding it is the next step.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point!

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Correction

In a recent post, I said that 2017 marked the 400th anniversary of the publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica. In fact, this year is the 330th anniversary of that monumental work being made available to the world. My apologies for the error: math has never been my strong point, and this is why I can never compare my work to that of Newton!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thirtieth anniversary of The Overview Effect's publication

This is a pretty big year for anniversaries!

In a personal vein, I am pleased to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the publishing of The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik, the first human-made object to travel into orbit around the Earth. Moreover, it is the 330th anniversary of the publication of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, which first enunciated the Laws of Gravity.

I don't mean to compare my book with the technological achievement of Sputnik, or the intellectual accomplishment of Principia, but I am happy to celebrate all three events this year.

I was really happy when The Overview Effect came out because I had been working for many years to have one of my books published. However, I also had very high expectations for sales and hoped to begin a revolution in how people viewed spaceflight with its publication.

It now appears that the revolution might indeed take place, but 30 years after the hoped-for event.

I was probably naive to think that the shift would happen overnight, and there is still a long way to go. However, the most important thing is that it happen before we irretrievably damage our planet and ourselves, and make the same mistakes as we move out into the solar system.

(To be continued)

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, 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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Competing Visions (6)

Elon Musk offers a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish and why. He wants to create a city on Mars that would have a population of up to a million people. The reason is that he wants to be sure there is an "insurance policy" in case something happens to the Earth. He is concerned about an "extinction event," like an asteroid hitting our home planet.

It is hard to argue with Elon's logic. We would go to Mars as a species, then, for the same reason that we buy life insurance as individuals. Since I have to die for the insurance to be collected, I will not benefit from it, but my family will. Similarly, if this generation invests in a Mars mission, we might not benefit, but humanity will.

The other "plus" for Elon's mission is that it has worked as a way to generate public support for his vision. While most of us really don't understand rocket engines, and a lot of people don't really understand how far away Mars is, or how difficult it would be to live there, we do understand survival of our species.

The question for Elon is, "Why Mars?" Why not a settlement on the moon, which is much closer, and would accomplish the same purpose. Is it because we "have been there and done that?"

In fact, we have seen over the years that Mars holds an allure for Earthlings that is both strong and mysterious, and that may have something to do with Elon's decision to focus his attention there. It doesn't negate the "insurance policy" rationale, but it does suggest that there may be other motivations at work.

More on this topic later...

(To be continued)

Copyright, Frank White, 2017, All Rights Reserved

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Competing Visions (5)

The Overview Effect hypothesis originally focused on a group of people who did not yet exist, i.e., those who might fulfill the O'Neill vision and live in space settlements located at, say, L5. This is a good opportunity for me to make something very clear: I did not suggest that these space pioneers would experience a sense of awe and wonder, or that they would become instantly enlightened.

I suggested that space settlers would take for granted something that has taken human beings thousands to years to grasp: there is a unity and oneness to our planet, and we are a part of the whole system we call Earth. Since there were no space settlers when I began this work in the 1980s, I interviewed astronauts as proxies for those who would live off the planet in the future.

As I talked with astronauts, I was able to confirm the original hypothesis, but there seemed to be much more going on. They were impressed with the lack of borders and boundaries on our home world (other than those we create in our own minds or through uses of the land), and they were struck by how thin the atmosphere was. By the time the first edition was published in 1987, it had become clear to me that astronauts returned to Earth with a greater concern for the environment, world peace, and humanitarian issues.

What began as an exploration of the psychology of space settlements began to focus back to life on the surface, and the next two editions of the book did not change that perspective. In retrospect, I think the discovery of the Overview Effect as an experience that will change both people on Earth and those who live off the planet is serendipitous, as the exploration of ideas often is.

Now, though, it is time to begin looking outward at the mass migration of humanity into the solar system, and we must ask how it is going to unfold.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Passing of Gene Cernan

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 commander and last person to walk on the moon.

Gene was very helpful to me when I was writing The Overview Effect. In particular, he, along with Edgar Mitchell, pointed out the differences in the astronaut experience between being in Low Earth Orbit and going to the moon. In Cernan's words:

"Being a quarter million miles out in space has to give you a different perspective. Anyone who denies it has missed something. Being in Earth orbit vs going out beyond must be separated. Philosophically, we really have had two different space  programs." (1)

He goes on to talk about how the astronaut is moving rapidly around the Earth when in orbit, while he is moving away while on the way to the moon or on the way back from the moon. Then, of course, there is the experience of being on the surface of the moon and seeing our home planet in the sky.

Of that, Cernan said:

"When I was on the moon somewhere out there in the universe, I had to stop and also ask myself, 'Do you really know where you are in space  and time and history?'" (2)

If you are interested in the distinction between the astronaut experience in LEO and on a lunar mission, I strongly recommend reading the interview with Gene Cernan in The Overview Effect.

You might also enjoy Cernan's book about his experiences, The Last Man on the Moon. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Eugene+Cernan

It is highly readable, and provides great insight not only into the Overview Effect aspects of the Apollo program but also what it was like to be an astronaut during the heady time of the late 60's and early 70's.

I find myself feeling increasing sadness as we lose more and more of the Apollo astronauts. There were not many of them to begin with, and each year seems to bring another passing. It is difficult to think of this elite group of people as mortal, but in a way that is the whole point of space exploration and the astronauts who carry it out: they are mortal and fallible, they are, well, human like the rest of us. And yet, as part of one of the greatest "central projects" of our time, they accomplished something that seems superhuman.

As we move out into the solar system, we should always remember that brave people like Eugene A. Cernan showed us the way and through their example, said, "You can do it, too."(1) 

(1) The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, F. White, AIAA, Reston, VA, 2014, p. 183.

(2) Ibid, p. 184.



(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2017, All Rights Reserved

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