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 







Friday, January 13, 2017

Competing Visions (4)

I was very involved in the Space Studies Institute (SSI) and my work with the space settlement movement led directly to the discovery of the Overview Effect.

The great benefit of SSI was that they wanted input from everybody, not just scientists and engineers. O'Neill envisioned a space settlement as a community of human beings who would do everything that people on Earth did, including writing poetry and novels, and debating political and economic issues.

After trying unsuccessfully for years to find a way into space exploration with a degree in the social sciences, I found that SSI welcomed me and was interested in my "human systems theory" about space settlement. I delivered my first major paper on space exploration and development at the SSI conference in 1981. It was called "Understanding Space Settlements as Human Systems," and it was well received.

At some point in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I took the plane flight that changed my life. I was pretty much obsessed with space settlements at this point, and as the plane flew west from Boston, I was thinking about what it would be like to always live off the Earth. At the same time, I was staring out the window and noticing how seamless everything appeared to be. There were no borders and boundaries between the states, like the maps to which we have grown so accustomed. Everything appeared to be seamless and whole.

I had other insights that are described in my book, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. The key for our purposes here is that I realized the following: "Everyone living in an O'Neill space settlement will always have an overview of the Earth. They will always know that the planet is unified and is a whole system. They will take for granted insights that we have struggled to attain for centuries."

At that moment, I called this experience "the Overview Effect" and set out to determine if it offered a valid hypothesis about the future of space exploration and development.

(To be continued)

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

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