The Pale Blue Dot

The Pale Blue Dot

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech February 14, 1990
Earth, described by scientist Carl Sagan as a “Pale Blue Dot,” as seen by Voyager 1 from a distance of more than 4 billion miles.


There is a lot of downright anger today…some of it justified…some of it not. No matter. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and assess our true place in God’s Universe. To that end, I once again offer you…The Pale Blue Dot.

As each of us goes about our life, engrossed in the everyday cacophony that represents being alive in modern society, we worry over meeting the bills, what the city council might decide on a certain zoning issue, or who the president will be in 2020. We often revel in our own perceived importance as we ascend the corporate, military, or political ladder. Sometimes, it behooves us to consider a larger perspective.

Here is one such perspective. On September 5, 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1, a deep space probe designed to study the outer Solar System. This device performed far better than expected. As I write this, the probe is over 13.6 billion miles from Earth, the farthest of any devices ever launched by man…and is still responding to commands.

By 1990, Voyager 1 had completed its primary mission and was heading out of the Solar System. However, it was to get one final and most significant mission. Astronomer Carl Sagan prevailed upon NASA to have the spacecraft take a “family portrait” of the planets in the solar system, including Earth. The pictures were taken on Valentine’s Day, 1990 from a distance of 6 billion miles from home. The one showing Earth is the subject of a book by Sagan. No thinking person can see that picture, read his words, and then logically conclude that this all “just happened” on its own.

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.

Carl Sagan, 1994

As we enjoy this Sunday, our day of rest and devotion, let us all consider our place in the Universe. Yes, we can each strive to be the best Teacher, Businessman or Soldier. We can aspire to achieve high political office or become a sports superstar. But in the end, we still live on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. And yes, on a pale, blue, dot.

Happy Sunday!

Mike Ford

Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 

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