[Blog] Pale Blue Dot
Last night JoDee and I watched a documentary about the Voyager Space Program called "The Farthest: Voyager in Space". It walked through the history of the program to present day: the discoveries, the photos, the science, and the troubles with the program. It's a great watch if you're even remotely interested in the Voyager Spacecraft.
One of the interesting pieces was the (now famous) photograph that Voyager took of Earth as seen from just past Neptune. The mission didn't have that part in mind and Carl Sagan and others thought it would be an interesting perspective for folks to see where Voyager really was in relation to our Earth. Sagan even escalated the issue to the administration of NASA to get the photos. The counter-argument was that the photos had no scientific purpose but eventually Voyager was re-programmed to take the shot.
And in those brief photographs we saw for the first time how tiny our planet is compared to the rest of the solar system. How unremarkable our planet is.
It became one of the quotes Carl Sagan was best known for, and the basis of one of his books: "A Pale Blue Dot".
It's interesting to see how something that had no scientific purpose, that had active opposition up to the highest levels of NASA, became one of the elements that cemented how important the Voyager Space Program was (and is). One last look back at our solar system before we permeated outside of it and pupped our bubble to see what lies beyond.
I think Carl Sagan's greatest achievement was in humanizing science; in keeping that sense of perspective about where our accomplishments are taking us. In turning around Voyager's cameras we got a glimpse of our own world from a place we never dreamed we would be, and the humbling sense that we are truly a pale blue dot, a mote of dust in the cosmos.