Overview Effect: Quotes from Astronauts

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Mankind will not remain on Earth forever, but in its quest for light and space will at first timidly penetrate beyond the confines of the atmosphere, and later will conquer for itself all the space near the Sun.
– Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, father of cosmonautics.

The first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, was also the first time that astronauts were able to photograph the whole Earth from space. On December 24, 1968, astronauts Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders entered lunar orbit.

William Anders captured an iconic picture of the Earth that day which came to be known as Earthrise. Anders was so in awe of his view of Earth, he proclaimed, “Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!”

A photograph taken from the moon showing the Earth on December 24, 1968.
Earthrise, December 24, 1968. Photo: William Ander, NASA, public domain.

What is the Overview Effect?

The Overview Effect is a shift in awareness by astronauts seeing Earth from outer space as a “tiny, fragile ball of life.”

The term was coined by author Frank White in 1987 in his book, The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution.

Quotes From Astronauts About Earth

Here are impressions from astronauts upon viewing Earth from space.

Jim Lovell

“The vast loneliness up here of the Moon is awe inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand oasis to the big vastness of space.” — Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell

Photo of the Earth taken from space in 1968 showing the Western Hemisphere.
Astronaut photograph AS08-16-2593 was acquired on December 22, 1968, by the Apollo 8 crew with a 77 mm camera.

Michael Collins

“The thing that really surprised me was that it [Earth] projected an air of fragility. And why, I don’t know. I don’t know to this day. I had a feeling it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.” Michael Collins Apollo 11

Earthrise over the Moon: partly-illuminated Earth rising over the lunar horizon. In this photo, the Earth is about 400,000 miles away. Photo: Apollo 11, AS11-44-6552, July 20, 1969.
Earthrise over the Moon: partly-illuminated Earth rising over the lunar horizon. In this photo, the Earth is about 400,000 miles away. Photo: Apollo 11, AS11-44-6552, July 20, 1969.

Neil Armstrong

“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.” Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11

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