A Glimpse of Divinity

Called the Overview Effect, something interesting, but not well publicized, happens to people, astronauts, when viewing the earth from space. These travelers tell of a sudden awakening of their consciousness, and an almost religious ecstasy that accompanies it. We here on earth find it hard to see the forest for the trees. Maybe we should try seeing through the eyes of those who have.

“The earth today is an oasis of life in space.  It is the only island we know is a suitable home for man.  I have a deep sense of the finite significance of our fragility. We are a fragile planet, physically so interdependent…We must find ways to protect it.  The importance of protecting and saving that home has never been felt more strongly.  Protection seems most required, however, not from foreign aggressors or natural calamity, but from its own population.” ~ Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon

“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

“The colors are stunning. In a single view, I see – looking out at the edge of the earth: red at the horizon line, blending to orange and yellow, followed by a thin white line, then light blue, gradually turning to dark blue and various gradually darker shades of gray, then black and a million stars above. It’s breathtaking.” ~ Willie McCool

“A tear-drop of green.” ~ Ron McNair

“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

“My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.” ~ Edgar Mitchell

“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

“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.” ~ Don L. Lind

“My first reaction seeing the Earth was to turn my head away. This was too beautiful, humans weren’t meant to see this. And then I changed my mind. I started tearing up and, if you don’t know, moisture is really bad in a space helmet! I thought, ‘if you were in heaven this is what the view would be.’ Our planet is a paradise that’s beautiful beyond words.” ~ Mike Massimino

“It’s very emotional. So, the way I try to describe it is what I was feeling. And viewing our planet was so compelling. Words like beautiful and awesome just don’t do it justice. I felt that I was looking at a paradise. I was looking at heaven. I can’t imagine any place being more beautiful than our planet and how lucky we are to be able to live here. And that’s what I felt. That’s what I was thinking at the time, which I think is a better way for me to explain it than trying to think of words that don’t exist to explain to people just how beautiful it is.” ~ Mike Massimino

“The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble 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 Irwin

“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the earth.” ~ William Anders

“Before I flew I was already aware of how small and vulnerable our planet is; but only when I saw it from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that human kind’s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.” ~ Sigmund Jähn

“Oddly enough the overriding sensation I got looking at the earth was, my god that little thing is so fragile out there.” ~ Mike Collins


“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

“On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been is, but on the other hand, we can really, clearly see how fragile it is…. The atmosphere for instance…the atmosphere when viewed from space is paper thin, and to think that this paper thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and all that protects us is really a sobering thought.” ~ Ron Garan

“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

“Soon an excited voice was broadcast from the orbiting spacecraft. ‘Ya Chaika, Ya Chaika [I am Seagull]! I see the horizon — a light blue strip, a blue band. This is the Earth; how beautiful it is.’ She later told a group of reporters that her first sight of Earth from space was ‘overwhelming’: ‘It was breathtakingly beautiful, like something out of a fairy tale. There is no way to describe the joy of seeing the Earth. It is blue, and more beautiful than any other planet. Every continent, every ocean, had its own distinct beauty. The Earth was visible very clearly, even though the craft was traveling at [five miles] a second. Africa shone out in yellow and green, Australia was fringed in an opal color.'” ~ Valentina Tereshkova

“Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!” ~ Yuri Gagarin

“What beauty. I saw clouds and their light shadows on the distant dear earth . . .. The water looked like darkish, slightly gleaming spots . . .. When I watched the horizon, I saw the abrupt, contrasting transition from the earth’s light-colored surface to the absolutely black sky. I enjoyed the rich color spectrum of the earth. It is surrounded by a light blue aureole that gradually darkens, becoming turquoise, dark blue, violet, and finally coal black.” ~ Yuri Gagarin

“Now I know why I’m here. Not for a closer look at the moon, but to look back at our home, the Earth.” ~ Alfred Worden

“When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.” ~ Frank Borman

“The Earth was the only thing in the entire universe that had any colour – a beautiful sight, we’re very fortunate to live on this planet.” ~ Frank Borman

“I don’t think any of us paid any attention to the fact that we would be going all the way to the Moon and be more interested in looking at the Earth.” ~ Frank Borman

“The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth.” ~ Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud

“This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no resupply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion or our hometown or even to ourselves. It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got.” ~ Scott Carpenter

“I left Earth three times and found no other place to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth.” ~ Wally Schirra

For more on the Overview Effect see this post.


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