The experiences of people traveling into space through private
companies and as paying customers may present another channel of
research on how people react to seeing space because they can be more
open, Weibel said.
Among Shatner's comments: "I hope I never recover from this. I
hope that I can maintain what I feel now."
Those going to space as part of NASA are also steeped in its cautious
culture and are trained on how to communicate in a straightforward
way, Weibel said. She said when she interviewed active astronauts as
part of her research on religion and space, they were hesitant to go
far afield, even knowing personal details would be omitted.
"People have to be really careful about what they say,"
Weibel said. "There's an awareness among active astronauts that
they may lose their next flight if they say something questionable."
In Shatner's case, his words immediately after the flight indicated
he experienced what author Frank White coined as the "overview
effect," Weibel said. She said it is a profound emotional
response to seeing Earth from space and realizing its fragility; some
astronauts experienced it, and others didn't.
"It's recognizing the reality of living on this sphere suspended
in space that hits you in a way that was so abstract before,"
Gazing at the Earth from above is a situation few humans have
experienced and is something humankind only recently could know,
Weibel noted. Shatner's immediate, unfettered summation provides
different information than what comes from interviews conducted some
time later, when memories have started to filter the experience, she said.
"This is an outpouring of an instant reaction without time
passing; it's really fresh. I'm glad it's recorded because it's going
to be influential," Weibel said. "I know I'm going to make
reference to this."