Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Voyager 1 spacecraft taking one of the most iconic photographs in history: Earth, as seen from more than 6 billion kilometers away.
It was taken under the urging of Carl Sagan, and NASA commanded the spacecraft to rotate so that the camera would take the shot, something that had never been done before from such a distance. As luck would have it, sunlight scattered inside the camera, creating the lovely splashes of light across the frame, one of them, by happenstance, lying across the one tiny, tiny pixel that was all our entire planet could muster.
This image inspired Sagan to write one of the most beautiful and moving passages I’ve ever read, “Reflections on a Mote of Dust,” sometimes called “Pale Blue Dot.”
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
That’s just an excerpt. Go read the whole thing.
His message was so powerful it has inspired people to create art for it, and even after all these years the words still resonate as strongly as they did in 1990. I have written many times about this essay and the art created in its name. Here a few of those articles; please take a moment to read them, and reflect on what it means to inhabit something so small and remote and wonderful and in such need of our care: