In 1946, we got our first look at the Earth from space, thanks to a war-surplus V2 rocket repurposed by the U.S. Army. On Valentine’s Day in 1990, Voyager One took an iconic photo – of Earth as a tiny pale blue dot in the vastness of space. Excerpt:
We first glimpsed Earth’s curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home.
In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home.
But on Valentine’s Day 27 years ago, Voyager 1, from 4 billion miles away, took one final picture before switching off its camera forever. In the image, Earth, Carl Sagan said, was merely “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” So we pondered the insignificance of our home. The image inspired Sagan to write his book “The Pale Blue Dot,” and it continues to cripple human grandiosity.
And, about the Voyagers:
There aren’t any space missions like the Voyagers on the docket for the future, but both spacecraft continue beaming back data going on 40 years and counting. Voyager 1 became the first human-made thing to enter interstellar space, back in 2012 when it passed into the heliosphere, the bubble surrounding our solar system. Voyager 2 is expected to pierce the heliosphere around 2020.
Think about that. There is an object built by human hands, bearing human information, hurtling into the unfathomable deeps of interstellar space, even as you read these words. In a few years its brother will follow into those empty reaches.
Some day, I’d like to think humans will follow – maybe in a colossal generation ship, maybe in a constant-acceleration starship with a crew in deep-sleep, maybe in some faster-than-light craft driven by some as-yet un-imagined technology. I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see it, but I would love to be proven wrong.
As a part-time science-fiction writer, I’ve made some guesses as to the shape the future might take. I’m fifty-five now; I can expect to live to see thirty or forty more years of that future. I am and have been convinced that our destiny lay out there somewhere, far from this tiny little blue-white ball.
Oh, and here’s the photo. That’s us in the pale sunbeam on the right; as Carl Sagan said: “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.” I can’t add anything to that; not a word.