Anywhere but here


Ten years ago, Evghenia began building a rocket in her back garden from spare car parts and old “nuclear facility.” On August 3, 2014, she flew her ship to Mars. Or at least that’s what she tweeted.

The twitter account @OnMarsFirst claims to be the real-time report of the “First person on Planet Mars.” From her vantage point in outer space, Evghenia reflects on Earth and humanity. “I feel more like human now that i am alone on mars,” she writes. “when i, evghenia, lived in earth i feel humans is scaryest thing. now alone on mars, humans is like cute talking space rocks far far away.”

Evghenia isn’t the first to tweet intergalactic wisdom. Chris Hadfield, a NASA astronaut, captured the imagination of millions when he began posting striking photographs of Earth from hundreds of miles away. In an Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield writes: “Life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.”

Coined by philosopher Frank White in 1987 as the overview effect (in a book of the same name) revelations like Hadfield’s are common among astronauts. The Overview Institute, a group of astronauts, scientists and artists researching the psychological impact of space experience, describe the effect as “seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.”

The overview effect is a good reason for commercial space travel, claims George Whiteside, CEO of Virgin Galactic, the Richard Branson-owned spaceline. “When people go into space they come back with a different perspective,” he says. Despite the crash of a test flight last week, Virgin Galactic is set to launch its first space tourism trip within the next few years. Each flight will cost $155,000.

It’s a lot of money and a long way to go just to appreciate the ground beneath your feet. But according to Evghenia, the view from Mars is worth it in the long term. Especially for those who sold their souls to make all that cash. “if you afraid of hell,” she tweets, “come to mars. hell not exist here. i looked.”


Blogpost courtesy of Livia Albeck-Ripka

The above image of US astronaut Mae Jemison chilling in zero gravity (1992) is courtesy of NASA.