The Voyager 1 satellite made a photo of the Earth on Valentine's Day 1990, which could be seen as a light blue dot from Neptune - at the back of the solar system. At the request of the late astronomer Carl Sagan, the Voyager turned around and took the photo. In conversation with NU.nl, Sagan's widow Ann Druyan mentions the earth as a small dot "our reality that we must embrace".
Sagan used the photo to put our planet in a new perspective. "That dot is a small stage in cosmic theater," wrote the astronomer. According to him, the photo of "the only home that people have ever known" showed that people are too proud of themselves and that we should treat each other better.
The Voyager probe also had a golden LP with a collection of earthy sounds. Druyan put together the content that was to serve as a message for extraterrestrial life. "NASA thought we were crazy."
Druyan and Sagan wanted to immortalize the whole earth in the plates. So there were not only many languages, but also the singing of whales. And the music had to be more than just American pop music. "NASA seemed offended that we had used Japanese music instead of, for example, music from Frank Sinatra."
The golden LP on the side of Voyager 1. (Photo: NASA)
Photo taken from the back planet Neptune
Sagan already had the idea in 1981 to photograph the earth with Voyager 1. In 1990 the time had come: the probe was located 6 billion kilometers from the earth and passed Neptune, the rear planet in the solar system.
For a moment the probe turned and shot the photos. Half an hour later, NASA permanently shut down Voyager's cameras to save disk space and battery.
The earth as a small dot, recorded by the Voyager at 6 billion kilometers away. (Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Druyan: "Voyager is more than the Pale Blue Dot "
Sagan was best known for his science series Cosmos . A new series is now being prepared. Cosmos: Possible Worlds is coming out in March. NU.nl spoke with seventy-year-old Druyan about this series, which she writes and produces. Naturally, her work at NASA was also discussed. "Voyager is more than the Pale Blue Dot, " she says.
An employee of the space agency once told Druyan that the Voyager mission is the most popular NASA project among the general public. "The fact that I was allowed to work on this 'Noah's Ark' of human culture gives me goose bumps today."
Druyan found it very special that she had a high position in such a huge project. She is grateful to Sagan: "A woman was not even allowed to finish her sentence at the time. That Carl treated me as an equal was therefore fantastic."
View here what is printed on the Voyager gold plates