“We went to the moon, and we discovered Earth.” So true. Listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about the simple fact that “you can’t put a price on space exploration”. It will really give you chills.
Listen as he talks about the defining effects that watching Earth from the moon had on humans, especially if you weren’t around when it happened.
Objectively — and anthropologists and sociologists studied this in the wake of the Apollo program — the mere image of the entire Earth from space changed our perception forever. Space exploration created a global sense, humanity united as one species. All of the sudden we knew we were here, alone in the cold. That picture of Earth rising over the moon’s horizon prompted humans to realise that this place is where we will have our last stand. It prompted humans to think about who we are. And, as Tyson says, you can’t put a price on that.
As a result of this new sense of species and the limits of our tiny planet, several things happened down here on the surface. Tyson talks about the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, formed in 1970. Also Doctors Without Borders, which was formed in 1971. Without borders, says deGrasse Tyson, was a phrase that was never spoken by anyone before. It seems obvious to everyone now and humans knew that borders were artificial before that, but the images of Earth left no doubt. It was the visualisation of a fact that we imagined but never saw.
We are just a ball in space. A wonderful magic ball.
So listen closely and realise how we as a species suddenly became aware of the fact that this blue marble is all we have. And yet, we keep forgetting about it. We take it for granted. We take ourselves for granted. And in these years of darkness and beige, most people have stopped dreaming. Worse, as Carl Sagan said in Pale Blue Dot, we are “eager to kill one another”:
Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. 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.
That’s why Tyson and every other proponent of space exploration insists on the need to keep going back, to keep investing in it. We need to get back on that dream, so we can reach the stars, learn about our origins, and finally realise that we are all the same star stuff living in this pale blue dot.