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Is Space Travel the Next Step in Human Evolution? -A Galaxy Insight

Transportation_space_rocket_2 Increasingly, advocates of space exploration believe leaving the planet is the natural next step of human evolution. They hope this will lead to a shift in human consciousness from an earth-centered frame of reference to one centered on the solar system and, eventually, the entire galaxy.

It has been argued that we can’t just focus on the technology of space travel, without developing a supportive philosophy as well. Space travel is not solely a hard technical science, but involves mental, emotional and even spiritual aspects of what it means to be human.

Well over 30 astronauts and cosmonauts have described a strange, nirvana-like phenomenon that can occur suddenly during space travel, which is collectively referred to as the “Overview Effect”, which has broadened their own understanding of our connection to space.

Former astronaut Ed Mitchell piloted Apollo 14’s Lunar Module down to the Fra Mauro region of the Moon. After their objectives were met, he and Cdr. Alan Shepard got back on the shuttle for the “bus” ride home.

So there he was rocketing through space between the Earth and the Moon when something very odd happened…

Mitchell says at first he was just bored. “We were just systems engineers on a perfectly functioning spacecraft.” With nothing to do he looked out the window. The Command Module was pointing “up” – which is to say perpendicular to the plane of the Solar System – and spinning slowly, about once every two minutes. It’s called “Barbecue Mode” as the craft spins to evenly heat the vehicle. Ed was floating as he watched the Earth, Moon, Sun and stars pan by.

And then, without warning: a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He instantly and profoundly felt the understanding of his constituent atoms as having been born in the fires of ancient supernovas. He saw Earth and it’s people along with it’s other species and systems as a unified synergistic whole. The feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria.

He was not the first—nor the last—to have this specific epiphany, the sense that everything is connected.

Rusty Schweikart experienced it back on March 6th 1969 during a spacewalk outside his Apollo 9 vehicle: “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.”

20 years ago, author Frank White collected the observations of 30 astronauts and cosmonauts about this specific psychological shift that gave its recipients a broader perspective on the connectedness of matter. Recently, in a DC hotel across the street from the Pentagon, White discussed ways of sharing the Overview Effect with humanity.

Scientists, authors, astronauts, musicians, technologists, space-tourist adventurers, humanists, and an assortment of geeks came together to collaborate on a strategy to share the message. Their mission is to maximize opportunities for us Earth-dwellers to have our own individual Overview experience. Their strategy is to use art, science, mass media, music, environmental awareness, personal networking and the Internet to help non-space travelers to at least understand and possibly even experience the Effect.

It almost sounds like religion, but its “preachers” believe the event is based in science. After decades of studying this, Ed Mitchell believes that the feeling of “oneness” with the Universe that he and others have experienced is a consequence of quantum physics. Andy Newberg, a neuroscientist/physician with a background in space medicine, is learning how to identify the markers of someone who has had the experience. “You can often tell when you’re with someone who has flown in space,” he says, “It’s palpable.” Andy scans brains for a living: praying nuns, transcendental mediators, and others in the act of focused states.

Newberg can pinpoint regions in subjects’ gray matter that correlate to these circumstances. Newberg is seriously looking at how to fly equipment that could study—in action—the brain functions of space travelers. If this Overview Effect is a real, physiological phenomenon—he wants to watch it happen.

Newberg’s first test subject will not be a paid astronaut, but rather a paying space tourist: Reda Andersen slated to fly with Rocketplane Kistler says, “It would be criminal NOT to study the first of us (space adventure travelers).”

Maybe it’s much ado about nothing, or maybe it’s something more. Perhaps as space travel becomes more mainstream we’ll have the opportunity to understand more about ourselves, the cosmos, and our relationship to rest of the universe.

Posted by Rebecca Sato



Very interesting.

As Delenn of "Babylon 5" put it:
"We are starstuff, we are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out."

Once we get out there we really grok that.

Oh come on now... The first people to fly in airplanes probably felt the same elation. Now we've got over-congested airports, jet fuel and noise polluted skies, miserable on-flight conditions bordering on inhumane, etc... Man can do no better, and if he ever ventures out commercially into space, expect more of the same.

We should be considerate of the environments of other planets, recycling should be mandatory on space colonies, because we can't repeat the mistakes we made here. & if we make mistakes,we had bloody well learn from 'em. The tree - huggers call Earth our " Mother ", well, in many ancient traditions,like Native American, the sky was " father ", so we should respect our " father ", too.

If not, then we don't have any business being out there.

Preaching to the choir ? No ?

Except on Mars where we need to creat an atmosphere!!

EvilCosmicMonkey, most other planets are full of toxic gases and harbour no life. I don't see why we should care too much about maintaining a sterile poisonous rock's environment.

"...Man can do no better, and if he ever ventures out commercially into space, expect more of the same."

In the long run, I'm sure you'll be essentially correct.

And yet, in spite of its commonality and while perhaps not spiritually moved, I still enjoy the actual experience of flight...

(At least when it all goes right. Had to spend the night in the Newark airport, last time I flew...)

Seems to me that the people who lived on horse back did not have a clue of what was to come. I feel just as awed. I still waiting for a society of telepaths.

Exciting, hmmmm living in a spaceship about the size of a VW bus for months on end then pitching tent on some desolate planet where you can't even breathe the outside air. Eating old dehydrated grub with same old five or six faces playing with their blackberries 24/7 for entertainment. Robots yes, but if they are human I hope they don't send them up there with a pistol.

It's great to see this being covered. The DC event referred to was the first Overview Effect Conference, a one-day event that was co-hosted by the Space Frontier Foundation and preceeded it's NewSpace 2007 conference. You can read about it at As Executive Director of the SFF at that time, it was great to work with Frank White (long time SFF advisor) and David Beaver ( to make this happen.

Frank and David continue leading an effort to establish and fund an Overview Effect Institute.



No, the first people to fly never reported anything even close to "The Overview Effect". Remember, people had airships a long time before airplanes.

You can't see that the earth is just a big rock, suspended in the black void of space, from an airplane.

It appears the article has generated a discussion...somewhat interesting.

You guys have ever heard about a fiction Book from Asimov called 'ANDROMEDA' ??

Asimov described a long stay on a desolate space craft and the terrible impact on the humans on board..terrible impact on their minds.....Loss of cognition and may be cosciousness in the mental sense.
Dreams ...reality mixed up with virtual mental nightmares...a tru and BIG mess.

Well may be he was right.

Good luck to those that want to suffer the acceleration-deceleration ...lack of a decent gravity force...and various other body and MENTAL Hillness...
Good luck to them....

At NASA are still studying the effects on human body of long space journeys...may be the mental issues are even worse.

Recently Hawcking has hypothesized human beings staying for multiple generations within interstellar space ships....a new kind ...people born in the deep and dark spaces of the interstellar medium....another kind.

Please GO...test the so called 'overwiew effect'....I prefer the old miniplanet in which I was born....with all the issues here...that are less severe than issues on desolate, inhospitable planets ...or interstellar medium...within a CRAFT....may be with the 'syndrome of Andromeda'.


"Asimov described a long stay on a desolate space craft and the terrible impact on the humans on board..terrible impact on their minds.....Loss of cognition and may be cosciousness in the mental sense.
Dreams ...reality mixed up with virtual mental nightmares...a tru and BIG mess.

Well may be he was right."

Wow. One wonders how anyone ever explored the Arctic/Antarctic, or undertook long sea voyages...

I believe Isaac wrote that, long before all of today's means of electronic communications and entertainment/distraction.

Yes, I know you aren't going to have real-time Internet where speed of light delays become significant (though if you're patient, e-mail can still be useful anywhere in the solar system) but in a time when you can almost put the Library of Congress in your pocket, and new information can be streamed to you constantly, it's hard to imagine not being able to keep the mind active, or developing an excessive sense of 'loss of touch' with Earth.

And I don't like 'Generation-Travel' starships in any case (even allowing for inevitable increases in human life span). If the flight can't be done in less than 100 years, it's better to wait until higher performance propulsion and/or some means of biological suspension is developed.

Technology advances fast enough that you'll probably pass the guy who went out on a 'slowboat.'

Dave :
There may be no terrestrial - type environments to " trash ", but just saying that even if we go to a near - vacuum environment like the Moon / Luna, we shouldn't mess it up. icture the Apollo 11 landing site at Mare Tranquilatitis with soda & beer cans, or touristy neon signs near the summit of Mars' Olympus Mons.

And IF we do enter interstellar space, & encounter sentient, sapient species that are maybe not our technological & cultural equals, we should treat them with respect & not exploit them.

That said, anyone willing to go into inter - PLANETARY space had best be psychologically prepared for a long trip through a nearly empty void, with Earth only a blue spot amongst the stars, at best. Kind of gives one some cosmic perspective.


We should send men AND women, to give the crew a way to occupy their time !! I'm not even going to go into the idea or the option of gay or lesbian crews. Someone w / be offended.....

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