Most of us will probably never get the chance to look at planet Earth from space, but psychologists are particularly interested in these feelings of awe reported by the astronauts who did make it up there.
Called the “overview effect,” this sense of wonder has prompted some researchers from the University of Pennsylvania to conduct an investigation to gain a better understanding of it.
Astronauts have also reported that this phenomenon also includes “feelings of transformation” because of a particular magic that comes with experiencing this unique view.
In this endeavor, the team had two main goals. Firstly, they wanted to investigate the consequences of space flight, given that more and more people get to travel in space missions.
Secondly, they hoped to have a better comprehension of these feeling of awe to see if there is a chance the pleasant feeling could be reproduced for non-astronauts.
For the investigation, researchers analyzed the statements given by astronauts who traveled to space and got a good look at the planet Earth from above.
Their excerpts included concepts like unity, connectedness, vastness, and a new perception – strong words implying that the experience represented a life-altering moment.
For instance, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly recently returned to Earth from his record-breaking stay at the ISS, and he described his time in space as an opportunity to appreciate the planet more.
Humans are known for traveling great distances to see amazing landscapes and beautiful sunsets – which gives them approximately the same feelings. However, nothing on Earth can compare to the extreme version reserved only for astronauts.
This is why researchers wanted to take a good look at that version of a general concept, hoping to learn more. Some experts believed these experiences were associated strictly with a religious context, but the authors say it is not the case for all astronauts.
Seeing that space missions are highly-scientific, such connotations are sometimes literally left on Earth, so they can focus better on the job at hand.
But according to study author Johannes Eichstaedt, the endpoint of this investigation is finding a way to duplicate these experiences and the feelings they induce. He believes people may cope better with their reality and feel more connected.
At the same time, Eichstaedt hopes that psychology will become a more significant part of future space missions; the well-being of the astronauts going on prolonged missions should be a priority.
Image Source: Telegraph.co.uk