Richard Branson and Neil deGrasse Tyson think we should launch politicians into space.
Not permanently, but for just enough time that they can “see Earth in a way where there are no national boundaries,” Tyson said.
Branson, founder of Virgin Group, which has over 400 companies including his space venture, Virgin Galactic, was interviewed by Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of the StarTalk Radio Show, at the Clinton Global Initiative, a conference hosted by the Clinton Foundation that focuses on ways to solve grand challenges.
They discussed Branson’s forays into space travel, protecting the oceans, and increasing internet access.
The phenomenon that Tyson referred to in the quote above is called the “overview effect,” and it’s the experience of seeing Earth from above that leaves astronauts feeling awestruck and gives them a newfound appreciation for the world as a fragile planet that we share.
Tyson and Branson argue that if we let warring or even just disagreeable politicians share in this experience, it might help them recognise how we are all in it together on this blue marble of ours — and help them come to compromises on seemingly endless partisan battles.
“Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I’ve come to call ‘the orbital perspective,'” NASA astronaut Ron Garan wrote in his book of the same name. “Part of this is the realisation that we are all travelling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.”
If Branson with Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk with SpaceX can make space travel as accessible and affordable as plane travel is today, then perhaps everyone will be able to experience the overview effect one day.
And that could help all of us — especially politicians — get along.
“It’s not just a ride to Disneyland,” Tyson said of space travel at the conference. “It’s a ride to a cosmic perspective that maybe there’s not enough of in this world.”
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