Viewing the Earth from orbit changes your perspective
January 12, 2013 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Brandon, I'm only a few minutes into this, but I wanted to make sure to thank you for posting. I think I just became an Edgar Mitchell fan. I love your space posts and comments, please keep them up. Plus, permission from an astronaut to use the word "awesome!"
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2013

Gerry Carr, Skylab 4: "The atmosphere is all that keeps the Earth habitable, but it's no thicker than the skin of an orange--- no, thinner than that, like the skin of an apple. There's no way you can explain the fragility of the Earth."

This observation has haunted me for decades. So, yes, looking down from orbit changes your perspective.
posted by SPrintF at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Eyes Turned Skyward, Looking Back at Earth
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

If somebody'd said before the flight, "Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?" I would have say, "No, no way." But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.
— Alan Shepard

A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That's how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. I could not help but love and cherish her.
— Taylor Wang

As we got further and further away, it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.
— James B. Irwin

For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light—our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.
— Ulf Merbold.

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth... home.
— Edgar Mitchell

Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty—but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That's where life is; that's were all the good stuff is.
— Loren Acton

To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude toward life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.
— Roberta Bondar, Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years.

The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone, our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.
— Aleksei Leonov

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 there 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!"
— Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut, People magazine, 8 April 1974.

We went to the Moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians.
— Edgar Mitchell
posted by Rhaomi at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2013 [45 favorites]

Thanks, Brandon.... good post.
posted by HuronBob at 2:31 PM on January 12, 2013

Excellent comic on the topic.
posted by symbioid at 2:42 PM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:51 PM on January 12, 2013

Excellent comic on the topic.

Next panel: "Arrgh"... "Choke"... "no air!"... THUD-THUD-THUD.

posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it because you can't see the worms inside the spiders from that far away?
posted by tykky at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Those astronauts sure are kicking up a lot of dust in this apple skin.
posted by cmoj at 3:18 PM on January 12, 2013

When I was in high school, there was a channel on TV (maybe NASA TV?) that was some kind of real-time feed from an orbiting satellite. it was just views of Earth—no music, no commentary, no graphics or news tickers on the screen, just magnificent views like some of what's shown in this video.

I used to sit and watch this for literally hours at a stretch (my parents thought I was on drugs). But it was simply that awesome, in the proper sense of the word.

Beautiful description of the effect this had on me, thanks for the post.
posted by Hadroed at 3:36 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's just beautiful!

thank you.
posted by jammy at 4:40 PM on January 12, 2013

These things are the beginning of the Next Religion. Seriously.

We were in a tribe of hunter-gatherers, and the Shaman wandered off and drank a liquid and smoked a pipe and came back and told us about the strange worlds seen inside.

That vision was something we revered and paid homage to.

We were in a tribe of industrialists, and the Spaceman went off and orbited the planet and came back and told us about the strange world, seen from outside.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:56 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's a powerful effect when you see a picture of the Earth for the first time, or when you watch time lapse footage of the Earth from orbit like in that documentary - but I think part of what makes the "Overview Effect" so powerful for astronauts is the visceral knowledge that they've traveled beyond the Earth. They've gone so far that everything they've ever known, and everything their ancestors (going right back to the first cavemen) have ever known is contained on the surface of that tiny blue sphere. Everything everyone ever said or felt or thought or did happened in one physical spot, and now they've left it for the void. That can be both awe inspiring and terrifying, so it's no wonder the Earth seems especially welcoming and fragile afterwards, like returning to your childhood home after many years away. It's one those things the rest of will probably never understand on a gut level without being there.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:11 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

These things are the beginning of the Next Religion.

Please please let this be the next religion. Please please please please please.
posted by lucidium at 5:39 PM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Love this - thanks for posting it!
posted by Telpethoron at 6:34 PM on January 12, 2013

This is why all politicians should be shot into space. Well, not the only reason but mainly this: those people need some damn perspective. We are all alone on this big, blue marble and people in leadership should stop acting like total asshats with no sense of how little worth is in their tiny fiefdoms. And if that doesn't work, we should send them to the bottom of the ocean to think for a little while.
posted by amanda at 7:09 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, amanda, if we made it mandatory for politicians to spend time in space, then a lot more science nerds would suddenly get interested in becoming politicians, which in my view could only be a good thing.
posted by BlueJae at 7:22 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

What a powerful perspective. Wholly moving.
posted by Chutzler at 8:04 PM on January 12, 2013

I just watched it for the second straight time. This belongs in the sidebar.
posted by Chutzler at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2013

Yeah, the imagery here is absolutely incredible, but the perspectives are what make it. Thanks for posting.
posted by disillusioned at 8:38 PM on January 12, 2013

This is great!
posted by brundlefly at 9:30 PM on January 12, 2013

Thank you. This is terrific.
posted by faineant at 11:19 PM on January 12, 2013

This reminds me of Carl Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot.'
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:08 AM on January 13, 2013

Certainly their experiences had an impact on them - of “oneness” ; this "connection to earth" or "Savikalpa Samadhi", but they had quite a disturbing dismissal that "this experience does not exist in Western culture". Maybe they should spend a little more time getting to know the First Nations and/or Aboriginal cultures in their own backyards.
posted by what's her name at 7:15 AM on January 13, 2013

On the flipside, this provides a powerful impulse to create an Augmented reality mode with which to play the mother of all DEFCON games.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:02 AM on January 13, 2013

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