William Shatner looks out of the New Shepard windows on NS-18.
Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin successfully completed the second human spaceflight on their New Shepard suborbital rocket on October 13, 2021.

That four-person crew included Star Trek icon, William Shatner, who clearly had his own close-encounter with the “Overview Effect,” a phenomenon coined by author Frank White.

That iconic term, White explains, describes the cognitive shift that results from the experience of viewing the Earth from space and in space, from orbit or on a lunar mission.

The crew of NS-18 at apogee.
Credit: Blue Origin

Profound experience

Following his excursion, Shatner told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos: “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he said. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just, it’s extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”

It was unbelievable, Shatner said. “The little things – the weightless – but to see the blue color [of the sky] whip by you and now you’re staring into blackness. … And then it’s gone. It was so moving. This experience did something unbelievable…everybody in the world needs to do this,” Shatner told Bezos.

An emotional Shatner after spaceship touchdown.
Credit: Blue Origin webcast/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Beyond words

Contacted by Inside Outer Space, Frank White reacts to Shatner’s comments:

“William Shatner clearly experienced a powerful version of the Overview Effect and was still processing it when he landed. It is rare that we get to see and hear from an astronaut so soon after they return to Earth.”

White recalls that astronaut Edgar Mitchell told the author that being open to the experience was critical in terms of its impact.

Credit: Amazon books

 

“I believe Shatner was uniquely open, and that is why he felt it so strongly,” White explains. “He also absorbed the primary Overview Effect message and tried to communicate how beautiful and essential to life our home planet really is. I hope people will come to understand that space exploration is not about escaping Earth but is about coming to appreciate her more fully. As Shatner said, the experience is beyond words, but almost everyone who has it wants to share it as best they can, because the Overview Effect message is critical to our future.”

For more information on the Overview Effect, go to this new edition of Frank White’s seminal book at:

The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, Fourth Edition, now available for purchase on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0932GSDM3

Also, go to this replay of New Shepard mission and comments from Shatner starting at 2:44:35 by going to:

https://youtu.be/uEhdlIor-do

Leave a Reply