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The Moon, the Earth and Us on the High Line

January 24, 2019

Have you ever wondered what astronauts can see from space?

Fifty years ago, the Apollo 8 mission brought astronauts to the moon for the first time. The six-day mission included a day orbiting the moon, during which time the astronauts took the first photograph of Earth in its entirety (known as the “Earthrise” photo). This photo is now one of the most iconic photographs ever taken.

The feeling that overcame the Apollo 8 astronauts—and the change they experienced—when viewing Earth from a great distance was arguably even more transformational than the historical significance of the photograph. They noticed that the human-made borders that separate and divide us disappeared, creating a single, interconnected planet. The space writer Frank White later coined this phenomenon as the “Overview Effect” to describe the mental shift that happens to astronauts when experiencing Earth as just a small part of a greater whole.

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell said of his Overview Effect experience, “What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I actually felt what has been described as an ecstasy of unity.”

And while not everyone can travel to Earth’s moon to understand this paradigm shift, we have artistic expressions here on Earth that attempt to capture what astronauts have witnessed over the past 50 years. Just such a public installation, The Moon, the Earth and Us, presented by artist and children’s book author Oliver Jeffers in partnership with the High Line, is currently on view in the park for three weeks starting on Thursday, January 24. The installation features two hand-painted sculptures of Earth and its moon, in a scale that depicts their true size and distance from one another. The moon sculpture reads: “No One Lives Here,” while the Earth sculpture reads, “People Live Here.”

“I hope this work encourages people to consider how far we actually are from our only close neighbor in this solar system, and in doing so, become aware of how fragile our society, or life at all, really is.” said Oliver Jeffers of his installation.

“Every element was designed so that passersby can attempt to suspend disbelief and imagine themselves temporarily buoyant in the vacuum of outer space. From that vantage point, hopefully the obviousness will strike a chord that to all people, this planet alone is our home.”

The Moon, the Earth and Us will be on display to members of the public in the High Line’s Chelsea Market Passage (on the High Line between 15th and 16th Streets) from Thursday, January 24 – Thursday, February 14.

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