14 Awe-Filled Quotes About ‘The Overview Effect’ From Outer Space

The Overview Effect, often reported by astronauts, is a cognitive shift in the awareness that arises during space flight. Most of the time, this effect occurs when the astronaut or space tourist experiences firsthand the view of Earth from orbit or the moon’s surface. Most astronauts report that the effect produces euphoria and alters their view of planetary conflict. They immediately sense the fragility of earth as a vulnerable ball of life. Formerly significant worries vanish into thin air as an overwhelming urge to protect the Earth affects the astronaut. Several quotes were recently collected by a documentary from the Planetary Collective. Other quotes have been spontaneously uttered by various astronauts during their space travels:

1. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut: “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out ther e on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”

2. Neil Armstrong, astronaut & moonwalker: “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

3. Shuttle/ISS astronaut Ron Garan: “When we look down at the earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile … Anybody else who’s ever gone to space says the same thing because it really is striking and it’s really sobering to see this paper-thin layer and to realize that that little paper-thin layer is all that protects every living thing on Earth from death, basically. From the harshness of space.”

4. Don L. Lind, astonaut and STS-51-B mission specialist: “Intellectually, I knew what to expect. I have probably looked at as many pictures from space as anybody … so I knew exactly what I was going to see … But there is no way you can be prepared for the emotional impact … It brought tears to my eyes.”

5. Richard Garriot, space tourist: “It was like drinking from a fire hose of information … I had heard of the Overview Effect but, having done many extreme things in my life … skydiving, mountain climbing, visiting the Titanic and Antarctica, I didn’t think it would greatly affect me… That is until… I got into space! My life has changed because of my space experience.”

6. Edward Gibson, astronaut & Skylab 4 pilot: “You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things In the universe … The result is that you enjoy the life that is before you … It allows you to have inner peace.”

7. Jeff Hoffman, shuttle astronaut: “You do, from that perspective, see the Earth as a planet. You see the sun as a star – we see the sun in a blue sky, but up there, you see the sun in a black sky. So, yeah, you are seeing it from the cosmic perspective.”

8. Anousheh Ansari, space tourist: “The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that’s hard to put to words … It sort of reduces things to a size that you think everything is manageable … All these things that may seem big and impossible … We can do this. Peace on Earth — No problem. It gives people that type of energy … that type of power, and I have experienced that.”

9. Roger B. Chaffee, Apollo astronaut: “The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way – the way God intended it to be – by giving everyone, eventually, that new perspective from out in space.”

10. Nicole Stott, shuttle/ISS astronaut: “We have this connection to Earth. I mean, it’s our home. And I don’t know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed. It may be subtle. You see differences in different people in their general response when they come back from space. But I think, collectively, everybody has that emblazoned on their memories, the way the planet looks. You can’t take that lightly.”

11. Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 astronaut: ”When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.”

12. Russell “Rusty” Schweikart, Apollo 9 astronaut: “When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change … it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.”

13. Ed White, Gemini 4 spacewalk astronaut: “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”

14. Carl Sagan, author referring to the Pale Blue Dot image: “There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”