Blue Marble, Pale Blue Dot…whatever you call it, it’s Home
35 years ago today, September 18, 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft turned its camera homeward just about two weeks after its launch, capturing the image above from a distance of 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km). It was the first time an image of its kind had ever been taken, showing the entire Earth and Moon together in a single frame… crescent-lit partners eternally paired in space.
I must say, it brings to mind a quote by the contentious British astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle (who famously coined the term “Big Bang”, albeit in disparagement) –
“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available – once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes known – a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
Whatever Hoyle had in mind, it’s quite something to look at your entire planet sitting there amidst the blackness of space and kow that everything that’s ever happened to all living things that we’ve ever known about, human or otherwise, has happened right there, on the surface of that sphere. And that we look awfully small from not very far away… 7.25 million miles is only just about a thirteenth the distance to the Sun (luckily Voyager was headed the other way!)
Of course, then there’s this famous bit of eloquence by the legendary Carl Sagan.