Thought Leader Series

Ignite your curiosity and grow your passion for space and science at our monthly Thought Leader Series. The best and brightest minds examine the significance of historic missions, share the latest news in space exploration and look ahead to the future of space travel. This immersive series takes guests beyond our walls to provide inspiring, engaging and educational learning experiences.

Upcoming Thought Leader Series presentation

Earth from Above: Explaining the Overview Effect
Aug. 20 | 6 p.m. CT

Traveling to space is a singular event in any person’s life. But seeing our “big blue marble” from orbit can change perspectives.

In our August Thought Leader Series, presented by The University of Texas Medical Branch, astronaut Don Pettit, author Frank White and NASA psychologist Tom Williams will discuss the overview effect, which describes the psychological effects astronauts experience when viewing the Earth from the ISS cupola and how it can influence a greater change in humankind.

Though Space Center Houston theaters are temporarily closed, we are still passionate about sharing science and space exploration with our community. To continue our commitment to bring dynamic science learning experiences to the public, please join the July Thought Leader Series virtually at 6 p.m. CT Aug. 20.

We will make the presentation available at 6 p.m. CT Aug. 20 on this webpage and our YouTube channel.

You can be part of the virtual July Thought Leader Series presentation by submitting your questions about robotics to questions@spacecenter.org by 5 p.m. CT Aug. 13.

View of Earth from the space station

About the Overview Effect

Since the early days of human spaceflight, seeing the Earth from orbit has changed how astronauts view our planet. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins reflected on that in an article for the New York Times last year. “The thing that really surprised me was that it [Earth] projected an air of fragility,” Collins said. “And why, I don’t know. I don’t know to this day. I had a feeling it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.”

About the panel

White is the author of three books, including The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a Rhodes Scholar. He earned an M.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University.

Williams oversees NASA’s human research focused on Human Factors and Behavioral Performance (HFBP) Element within NASA’s Human Research Program. He directs scientific research to address research gaps to address risk reduction in the areas of behavioral medicine and sleep as they relate to cognitive/behavioral performance, team science, human system integration architecture (related to habitability, human robotic interactions, human computer interactions, training), and dynamic loads (occupant protection) in spacecraft systems—all focused on using the Moon as a stepping stone for the journey to Mars, its exploration, and the safe return of the crew.

Pettit was selected as an astronaut in 1996. A veteran of three spaceflights, Dr. Pettit has logged more than 370 days in space and over 13 spacewalk hours. He lived aboard the International Space Station for 5 1/2 months during Expedition 6, was a member of the STS-126 crew, and again lived aboard the station for 6 1/2 months as part of the Expedition 30/31 crew.

Be part of our virtual Thought Leader Series presentation by submitting your questions to questions@spacecenter.org by 5 p.m. CT Aug. 13.

Past Thought Leader Series presentations

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