The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot
In 1989, Voyager 1 was about to leave our Solar System. Dr. Sagan, who was a member of the mission’s imaging team, pleaded with NASA officials to turn the camera around and take one last look back at Earth before the spaceship left our solar system.
He then presented that grainy image of the pale blue dot to the world in this press conference.
Editor’s note. I ran across a story a few months ago that reminded me of this photograph, and while I was digging up the image at the Planetary Society website I realized that the image would be thirty years old today.
Rather than quote a story written for the twenty-sixth anniversary I wrote the above quick piece and scheduled it for the thirtieth anniversary date. NASA had been planning for this date longer than I had, though. They had been working on an updated image, and they had scheduled the release of the image for the day before the actual date so that news of it would make headlines on papers and websites well in advance of the anniversary. That’s the kind of impression you can make when you wield the manpower and economic force of a national agency.