A philosophy of space is presented that is based on the author’s research into the
Overview Effect, or experience of seeing the Earth from space and in space. The essay
suggests that this philosophy should view the evolution of both humanity and the universe
as the underlying, or “deep” purpose of space exploration.
When the shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, the nation entered a period of intense
soul-searching. We had become accustomed to these spacecraft routinely lifting off from
Cape Canaveral and going into orbit for a week or more, then safely returning to Earth.
The process seemed so routine that Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher, was on board, as
the first “teacher in space.” This mission was intended to herald a new era of ordinary
citizens going into orbit and beyond.