As I was writing the final chapters of the first edition of The Overview Effect, it became clear to me, from everything the astronauts and cosmonauts had said, that exploring the universe was much too big a job for one space program, one country, or one company.
It also became clear that, while the Overview Effect could function as a unifying force for humanity on Earth, nothing like it existed once we began to migrate out into the rest of the solar ecosystem.
Around the same time, my friend Bruce Shackleton introduced me to the concept of central projects, which were discussed in an article by Willis Harman. Willis had been a colleague of Edgar Mitchell and was deeply involved in creating the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
The article describes central projects as long-term efforts by a society to create something that would have a physical form, but spiritual meaning, using the best energies of that civilization.
Building the pyramids in Egypt and the Gothic cathedrals in Europe represented examples of central projects from the past. The Apollo missions were also cited as a type of central project.
The idea of a central project and a global space program came together for me in the concept of the Human Space Program. In the first edition of the book, I defined it as a project that would last throughout the millennium, from 2000 to 3000, and laid out its mission, vision, goals, and objectives, as well as 20 initial tasks that the HSP could complete.
This basic structure was repeated in subsequent issues of The Overview Effect and was also detailed in The Cosma Hypothesis. I kept hoping that someone would take on this important mission and make it real, but no one did.
Along the way, I was also advocating what I called the Harvard Space Project, which had many of the characteristics of the Human Space Program. However, it would have been uniquely organized around the various Harvard faculties, such as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the Divinity School, and so on.
I envisioned that each Faculty or School would take on one of the big challenges facing humanity as we migrated outward into the solar ecosystem. This project made quite a bit of progress, but never became an interfaculty initiative at Harvard.
In the meantime, I met Irene Porro at Framingham State University (FSU), who volunteered to take up the cause at FSU, where she headed the Christa McAuliffe Center.
We launched what we called the Academy in Space Initiative in the spring of 2016, with the intent of going beyond Harvard and Framingham State and involving a multitude of universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher education worldwide.
Not long after that, in May of 2016, I gave a presentation to my reunion class at Harvard about the Human Space Program. That presentation was well received and one of my classmates, Ted Field, said he wanted to help me, but he suggested expanding the idea to include national space programs, businesses, and other institutions.