Whole Earthlings Wave Hello to the Cassini Spacecraft
Greetings from the Pale Blue Dot!
NASA called it the first interplanetary photobomb and Whole Earth Provision Co. was there! On July 19th the Cassini spacecraft turned its camera towards Earth and took a picture. Cassini has photographed the Earth once before, but this was the first time that Earthlings knew in advance that their picture was going to be taken from a billion miles away. NASA hoped that people around the world would go outside to wave at Saturn while the photo-shoot was underway. Always happy to do our part, we gathered outside the Whole Earth office in Austin and sent salutations to Cassini and the ringed planet.
This is only the third photo of the Earth taken from the outer solar system. The first, the Pale Blue Dot, was taken 23 years ago by Voyager 1 from beyond Neptune. The other image was taken by Cassini in 2006. Why did NASA have Cassini take a picture of the Earth today? The spacecraft was taking advantage of an eclipse of the Sun by Saturn which made the Earth visible just outside the E ring.
One of our very first ads (1971)
Why is an image of our planet at such a distance so important? It’s a reminder of just how small we are in the great cosmic scheme of things and how precious our planet Earth really is. The Pale Blue Dot inspired Carl Sagan to write:
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. 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 Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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 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.
from Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space