Neil deGrasse Tyson has slyly advocated sending President-elect Donald Trump up into outer space to save Earth — but he’ll bring him back down. Tyson just thinks Trump’s future leadership would benefit from the “Overview Effect,” a psychological phenomenon that affects people who have seen Earth from orbit, imbuing them with a newfound sense of awe, place, and respect for our fragile, tiny planet.
The term was first popularized by writer Frank White in his 1987 book The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution, which was based off hundreds of astronaut debriefings and dozens of in-person interviews with astronauts. White discovered that people who had left the planet talked about it a different way once they touched back down.
Edgar Mitchell, an Apollo 14 astronaut, summed up the feeling (and its potential use on Washington lawmakers) in the iconic quote that Tyson shared two days after the election:
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’
A Trump presidency could be very, very bad for the environment. The president-elect, who has previously claimed that global warming was a hoax “created by and for the Chinese,” will almost certainly kill the Paris climate change agreement once he takes office. Scientists are terrified. But, Tyson reckons, seeing Earth in all its majesty and vulnerability from up in orbit might inspire a change of heart.
Of course, there’s always a chance Tyson meant a “cosmic perspective” in the sense that everything is tiny and meaningless when viewed as a part of the grand history of the universe, so nothing matters, but let’s try to be positive. Plus, it doesn’t seem like he’s throwing in the towel.
On a Wednesday appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tyson said it’s going to be important to educate people during Trump’s term.
“I think we have a four-year mission now,” Tyson told Colbert. “I think what we need to do, let us together, make America smart again.”
And maybe, yes, shoot him into space?
Perhaps Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos wasn’t using a playground insult back in December with #senddonaldtospace, perhaps he too was thinking of the overview effect, which would explain his congratulatory tweet Thursday.