Saturday, 31 October 2015

pale blue dot

In 1990 after the space probe Voyager 1 had accomplished her primary mission of exploration of the outer planets, famed astronomer and project architect Carl Sagan requested that the emissary turn its lens back once more and capture an image of the Earth in all its humbleness from such a great distance.
It did not matter much that the photograph with two weeks’ delay was not quite as dramatic as Sagan had envisioned as his poetic reflections on this invisible parting-shot managed to inspire multitudes. Seizing on a similar opportunity twenty-three years later, Sagan’s students sought to make his pale blue dot as envisioned a reality by directing the Cassini to take a break from exploring Saturn and focusing back on its place of origin. Still not awash among a field of stars, the Earth’s latest selfie was produced, with the planet’s inhabitants being urged in advance—perhaps without sufficient publicity—to take a moment to appreciate the uniqueness of the world outside as they smiled for the camera. Maybe such a moment was not as well promoted as it could have been, as I hope I wasn’t on the wrong side of the globe or doing something tedious and inside as all of this transpired—paradoxically, I think we were at that moment experimenting with our own aerial photography. Of course, we were all present for 19. July 2013 when robot photographed its makers from the orbit of Saturn, awash in the erupting jets of the Moon Enceladus whose mysterious geysers might be spouting off the most accessible hints of life elsewhere in the solar system. It’s an inspiring, sacred look back and more in the spirit of Sagan’s vision than the original.