HomeEntertainmentWhy William Shatner Felt ‘Overwhelmed’ Looking Down on Earth From Space

Why William Shatner Felt ‘Overwhelmed’ Looking Down on Earth From Space

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

William Shatner said going into space started as an adventure, but he returned home with something he didn’t expect. The 90-year-old actor burst through Earth’s atmosphere on Wednesday aboard a Blue Origin rocket. Seeing the whole of humanity splayed out beneath him as he peeked out the window of the craft was overwhelming, and it changed him, he said.

The Star Trek star is on a media tour since he returned to terra firma. And he has a new message: we must protect this planet.

“I wish I had better news and more entertainment and jokes to tell you, but I was moved to tears by what I saw,” Shanter told CNN. “And I come back filled with … overwhelmed by sadness and empathy for this beautiful thing we call Earth.”

Speaking with Jimmy Fallon Thursday night, William Shatner said he has struggled to express what he felt because it’s impossible to put into words.

“Well, you know, the whole effect of going into space and seeing what very few people have seen,” he said. “And there is no frame of reference. How do you describe weightlessness? How do you describe seeing palpable darkness, blackness of space where there is no filter of dust or dirt or reflections of light? It’s there. … It’s evil — It seems like the monster.

“And then you look down and you see this precious thing. This warm, nurturing Earth and you see death and life and you descend and then you’re overwhelmed by the possibility of the Earth ending in a short while. And your life is in front of you.”

William Shatner Experienced the ‘Overview Effect’

William Shatner only spent about 10 minutes in outer space. But seeing the Earth floating in a sea of black was all it took to upend him, he said.

“That point of view is you’re looking down on the earth and looking up into space but you’re also looking up at the future and looking down at the past,” he said Wednesday afternoon, according to The Daily Mail.

It’s a feeling called the “overview effect.”

Author Frank White coined the term in 1987. He wrote that we define ourselves by differences be they cultural or territorial. But astronauts see the world without those lenses, and it’s life-altering.

“There are no borders or boundaries on our planet except those that we create in our minds or through human behaviors,” he wrote. “All the ideas and concepts that divide us when we are on the surface begin to fade from orbit and the moon. The result is a shift in worldview, and in identity.”

The sentiment is shared from Neil Armstrong to William Shatner. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person to experience the overview effect. He blasted off from Russia in 1961 — during the hottest part of the Cold War. He returned feeling the conflict was pointless.

“Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is,” he said, according to BigThink. “People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”