Twenty-three years after launch from Earth, the Voyager 1 spacecraft reaches the boundaries of the Solar System. On February 14, 1990, six billion miles from us, it opened its cameras one last time for one final look back.
Sixty images, sent pixel by pixel across space to be patiently collected on Earth. Then six planets appeared. Among them, suspended in a reflection of the Sun, a pale blue dot: the Earth.
Carl Sagan was the astrophysicist who initiated this project. The picture inspired him to write this essential poem. Today more than ever, we need to read these lines.
PALE BLUE DOT
Carl Sagan, 1994
” Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
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. 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.“
Finally, I invite you deeply to read the eponymous book where this text is from.
P.S.: Watercolour on paper and handwritten text, 31 x 41 cm. Two originals available for sale, one in English, one in French (sold). Price: GIVE WHAT YOU CAN + Shipping. Only one condition: it has to be dispayed on the wall. To order it, contact me.