We all know the famous goosebump-raising, tear-eliciting passage beginning “Look again at that dot…” But there’s much more here to savor. While much of Pale Blue Dot is devoted to summarizing the state of planetary exploration as of 1997, when the book was published, there remain many fascinating observations that are still relevant. I’ve tried to digest these here.
A rather poetic summary of space exploration so far
Since the advent of successful interplanetary flight in 1962, our machines have flown by, orbited, or landed on more than seventy new worlds. We have wandered among the wanderers. We have found vast volcanic eminences that dwarf the highest mountain on Earth; ancient river valleys on two planets enigmatically one too cold and the other too hot for running water; a giant planet with an interior of liquid metallic hydrogen into which a thousand Earths would fit; whole moons that have melted; a cloud-covered place with an atmosphere of corrosive raids, where even the high plateaus are above the melting point of lead ancient surfaces on which a faithful record of the violent formation of the Solar System is engraved; refugee ice worlds from the transplutonian depths; exquisitely patterned ring systems, marking the subtle harmonies of gravity; and a world surrounded by clouds of complex organic molecules like those that in the earliest history of our planet led to the origin of life.
Ah yes, the famous bit, from the chapter “You Are Here”
The spacecraft was a long way from home,