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Science

11th Jul 2024

Astronaut who spent nearly 6 months in space reveals huge ‘lie’ he discovered when he saw Earth

Zoe Hodges

‘I saw the paparazzi-like flashes of lightning storms’

An astronaut who spent nearly six months in space has revealed how his perspective on life shifted as he looked back down at planet Earth and realised we were ‘living a lie’.

The ‘overview effect’ is a change that occurs when people see the world from above and notice that no borders are visible, racial, religious and economic difficulties are absent.

In an interview with Big Think, astronaut, author and humanitarian Ron Garan who has travelled more than 71 million miles in 2,842 orbits, said he discovered just how fragile the planet is from up in space.

He said: “When I looked out the window of the International Space Station, I saw the paparazzi-like flashes of lightning storms, I saw dancing curtains of auroras that seemed so close it was as if we could reach out and touch them.

“I saw the unbelievable thinness of our planet’s atmosphere. In that moment, I was hit with the sobering realization that that paper-thin layer keeps every living thing on our planet alive.”

Garan, who spent 178 days in space went on to say how, as a society we’re living a lie: “I didn’t see the economy. But since our human-made systems treat everything, including the very life-support systems of our planet, as the wholly owned subsidiary of the global economy, it’s obvious from the vantage point of space that we’re living a lie.”

Garan pleaded for humanity to shift its priorities so we can ‘continue our evolutionary process’.

He said: “We need to move from thinking economy, society, planet to planet, society, economy.”

Garan claims that as a civilisation we are paying a high price by not adopting a more planetary perspective.

He is not the first to share this experience. Actor William Shatner shared that looking back at our planet from outer space was one of the ‘strongest feelings of grief’ he’d ever experienced.

He said: “The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna … things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind.”