Pale Blue Dot

Februar 2010

Romsonden Voyager 1 ble sendt opp den 5. september 1977 for å utforske de ytre delene av solsystemet, og den er fortsatt på vei utover i verdensrommet. Den 14. februar 1990 snudde den kameraene bakover og fotograferte planetene i vårt solsystem. Mannen som foreslo dette, astronomen og forfatteren Carl Sagan (1934-1996), møtte først motstand, men fikk til slutt gjennomslag for idéen. Et av de bildene som ble tatt kalles Pale Blue Dot og viser Jorden sett fra en avstand på ca. 6,4 milliarder kilometer!

I en forelesning den 11. mai 1996 snakket Carl Sagan om noen av de refleksjonene han hadde gjort seg i forbindelse med bildet. Det er en usedvanlig tankevekkende tekst som virkelig setter ting i perspektiv. Den burde være obligatorisk lesning for alle statsledere, militære ledere, religiøse ledere, industriledere, politikere og andre som har makt og mulighet til å påvirke verdensutviklingen.

Jeg er neppe den eneste som skulle ønske at det var mindre oppmerksomhet rundt medieskapte problemstillinger og konflikter som ofte skyldes maktbegjær, konstruerte forskjeller eller gammel overtro. I vår tid er det utvilsomt behov for en større grad av ydmykhet for den sårbare planeten vi bor på og økt forståelse for de reelle problemstillingene vår sivilisasjon står overfor.

Pale Blue DotCarl Sagans refleksjoner

«The spacecraft was a long way from home. I thought it would be a good idea, just after Saturn, to have them take one last glance homeward. From Saturn, the Earth would appear too small for Voyager to make out any detail. Our planet would be just a point of light, a lonely pixel hardly distinguishable from the many other points of light Voyager would see: nearby planets, far off suns. But precisely because of the obscurity of our world thus revealed, such a picture might be worth having.

It had been well understood by the scientists and philosophers of classical antiquity that the Earth was a mere point in a vast, encompassing cosmos, but no one had ever seen it as such. Here was our first chance, and perhaps also our last – for decades to come.

So, here they are: a mosaic of squares laid down on top of the planets in a background smattering of more distant stars. Because of the reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light, as if there were some special significance to this small world, but it's just an accident of geometry and optics. There is no sign of humans in this picture: not our reworking of the Earth's surface, not our machines, not ourselves. From this vantage point, our obsession with nationalism is nowhere in evidence. We are too small. On the scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential: a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest, but for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you've ever heard of, every human being who ever was lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy 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 mother and father, every hopeful child, 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 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. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we've ever known – the pale blue dot.»