One of the major benefits of space travel is the new perspective it brings, both to the people who experience it, and to those who experience it vicariously through them.
I believe that this perspective shift is just as important as any scientific knowledge or new technologies we gain through space travel. We are feeling, living, spiritual beings who crave a sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of our place in the universe than mere data can provide.
The Apollo 8 astronauts who took the famous Earthrise photo started the modern environmental movement by providing the first view of our home in space, in the context of space. It was their Christmas gift to the world, and it’s what we remember best from that mission nearly 45 years later.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gave us another such perspective by recording a music video shortly before departing the International Space Station this month, expressing through music the feeling that seeing our home planet from the outside can evoke. The video conveys more than reams of data can. It conveys a feeling. It inspires.
We need people in space who can express themselves through the arts every bit as much as we need scientists, engineers, and pilots. And as more and more people are able to get to space by their own means, we will have them. Prepare to be inspired.