“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast, cosmic arena.” – Carl Sagan
Over the past thirteen weeks, COSMOS has taken viewers on a journey though space and time, reaching back into history to revisit historical figures and revive lessons that can inform our understanding of the universe. Tonight, the journey ends with the series finale, an episode that’s more focused on asking questions about our world than answering them.
The stunning centerpiece of tonight’s episode also looks to the past, to the words of Carl Sagan, to illuminate how we, as humans, should treat our home on Earth, and treat each other. To do so, COSMOS incorporates Sagan’s famous words about our planet, the “pale blue dot.” Sagan’s monologue is accompanied by a slow shot of space, moving away from Earth in a journey to the outer reaches of our solar system.
This moment is inspired by Sagan’s own vision of Earth. As a member of the imaging team for the Voyager 1 spacecraft, he convinced NASA to turn the Voyager’s camera back towards Earth when the spacecraft went beyond Neptune for one last look at our home.
If you can’t see the Earth in the Voyager’s picture, you’re not alone. Our planet is nearly impossible to view from 6 billion kilometers away. Look closely at the brown band to the right of the picture – Earth is the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down.
Sagan was struck by our planet’s tiny size, our insignificance in the massive expanse that is outer space. In his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Sagan mused on the photograph’s deeper meaning: how humans’ brutality towards one another throughout history have all been for the control of a tiny portion of this infinitesimally small dot, and how our perspective of our home must shift.
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image,” he wrote. “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Here’s Sagan’s monologue that tonight’s COSMOS masterfully illustrates:
Don’t miss tonight’s season finale of COSMOS tonight at 9P.