By the time we’re ready to settle even the nearest planetary systems, we will have changed…. It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri and the other nearby stars; it will be a species very like us, but with more of our strengths, and fewer of our weaknesses; more confident, far-seeing, capable, and prudent.
—Carl Sagan, in YouTube user damewse’s remix of the Michael Marantz short, The Pale Blue Dot, itself an adaptation of Sagan’s work of the same name.
At Youtube, damewse writes that the video was inspired by frustration with NASA’s inability to convey the importance of its work:
NASA is the most fascinating, adventurous, epic institution ever devised by human beings, and their media sucks. Seriously. None of their brilliant scientists appear to know how to connect with the social media crowd, which is now more important than ever. In fact, NASA is an institution whose funding directly depends on how the public views them.
I’m not so sure NASA isn’t trying hard enough; they have Twitter accounts for many of their probes, and astronauts check in from space via social and mainstream media. As the flap over the arsenic bacteria shows, NASA’s problems may arise from trying too hard to convince the public of their relevance.
The video is beautiful—as, to be sure, is the planet it hymns. But I wonder if Sagan was right about the edifying qualities of space travel. Sagan argued that in order to solve the enormous challenges of interstellar exploration, mankind would have to set aside its petty struggles and evolve beyond our nasty, brutish ways. It’s a safe bet, but by no means a sure one; perhaps—should we survive to reach them—we’ll only find a broader canvas for our conflicts amidst the stars.