Our Earth - The Pale Blue Dot

On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission visiting the Gas Giant Planets, was directed to photograph the planets of Our Solar System on it’s way toward the outer reaches of solar influence.

Dr. Carl Sagan, Head of the Astrophysics Department at Cornell University made this profound observation of the image of this “Pale Blue Dot” (after his book of the same name) in a stirring Commencement Address to the graduating Class on May 11, 1994.  Despite never having never met the man, I found him to share many of my values. He was keenly aware of the many characters of humanity.

Dr. Sagan mentored millions through his novels, opinion, thesis, films, and advisory reports for U.S. and world leaders. There is no greater memoriam than “mentor”.


"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 in 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 the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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 is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."


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Carl Edward Sagan

November 9, 1934 December 20, 1996