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posted by hubie on Monday April 24 2023, @01:15AM   Printer-friendly

Our precious planet seen from deep space:

NASA's exploration robots have rumbled around Mars, swooped around Saturn, and flown well beyond the planets, into interstellar space.

But the space agency's engineers often direct their machines to peer back at the vivid blue dot in the distance.

"During almost every mission we turn around and take a picture back home," NASA's former chief historian, Bill Barry, told Mashable. "There seems to be an irresistible tendency to look back at home."

Indeed, in the cosmic images below you'll glimpse some of the farthest-away views of our humble, ocean-blanketed world ever captured by humanity. When we view other objects, worlds, stars, or even galaxies, we often see just dots. But to most of the cosmos, we're just a dot in the vast ether, too.

The article has nice images of the Earth and Moon taken by OSIRIS-REx, Earth as seen from the surface of Mars, a video flyby of the Earth and Moon by the Juno spacecraft, and a beautiful shot of Earth looking back with Saturnian rings in the view by Cassini, all reminding us of Carl Sagan's famous Pale Blue Dot where he observed:

To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Original Submission

Related Stories

Humanity's Most Distant Space Probe Jeopardized by Computer Glitch 14 comments

Voyager 1 is still alive out there, barreling into the cosmos more than 15 billion miles away. However, a computer problem has kept the mission's loyal support team in Southern California from knowing much more about the status of one of NASA's longest-lived spacecraft.

The computer glitch cropped up on November 14, and it affected Voyager 1's ability to send back telemetry data, such as measurements from the spacecraft's science instruments or basic engineering information about how the probe was doing. [...] "It would be the biggest miracle if we get it back. We certainly haven't given up," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview with Ars. "There are other things we can try. But this is, by far, the most serious since I've been project manager."

Dodd became the project manager for NASA's Voyager mission in 2010, overseeing a small cadre of engineers responsible for humanity's exploration into interstellar space. Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft ever, speeding away from the Sun at 38,000 mph (17 kilometers per second). [...] The latest problem with Voyager 1 lies in the probe's Flight Data Subsystem (FDS), one of three computers on the spacecraft working alongside a command-and-control central computer and another device overseeing attitude control and pointing. [...] In November, the data packages transmitted by Voyager 1 manifested a repeating pattern of ones and zeros as if it were stuck, according to NASA. Dodd said engineers at JPL have spent the better part of three months trying to diagnose the cause of the problem. She said the engineering team is "99.9 percent sure" the problem originated in the FDS, which appears to be having trouble "frame syncing" data. [...] "It's likely somewhere in the FDS memory," Dodd said. "A bit got flipped or corrupted. But without the telemetry, we can't see where that FDS memory corruption is."

[...] "We have sheets and sheets of schematics that are paper, that are all yellowed on the corners, and all signed in 1974," Dodd said. "They're pinned up on the walls and people are looking at them. That's a whole story in itself, just how to get to the information you need to be able to talk about the commanding decisions or what the problem might be." [...] "It is difficult to command Voyager," Dodd said. "We don't have any type of simulator for this. We don't have any hardware simulator. We don't have any software simulator... There's no simulator with the FDS, no hardware where we can try it on the ground first before we send it. So that makes people more cautious, and it's a balance between getting commanding right and taking risks."

[...] The spacecraft's vast distance and position in the southern sky require NASA to use the largest 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at a Deep Space Network tracking site in Australia, one of the network's most in-demand antennas.

"The data rates are very low, and this anomaly causes us not to have any telemetry," Dodd said. "We're kind of shooting in the blind a little bit because we don't know what the status of the spacecraft is completely."

Previously on SoylentNews:
Engineers Work to Fix Voyager 1 Computer - 20231215

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 24 2023, @03:07AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 24 2023, @03:07AM (#1302735)

    Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
    Dizzy with eternity
    Paint it with a skin of sky, brush in some clouds and sea
    Call it home for you and me
    A peaceful place, or so it looks from space
    A closer look reveals the human race
    Full of hope, full of grace, is the human face
    But afraid we may lay our home to waste

    There's a fear down here we can't forget
    Hasn't got a name just yet
    Always awake, always around
    Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down
    Ashes, ashes, all fall down


    Shipping powders back and forth
    Singing black goes south and white comes north
    And the whole world full of petty wars
    Singing I got mine and you got yours
    While the current fashions set the pace
    Lose your step, fall out of grace
    The radical, he rant and rage
    Singing someone got to turn the page
    And the rich man in his summer home
    Singing just leave well enough alone
    But his pants are down, his cover's blown
    And the politicians throwing stones
    So the kids, they dance, they shake their bones
    'Cause it's all too clear we're on our own
    Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down
    Ashes, ashes, all fall down

    Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
    It's dizzying, the possibilities

    Ashes, ashes, all fall down...

    Lyrics By: John Barlow
    Music By: Bob Weir

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25 2023, @01:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25 2023, @01:53AM (#1302934)

      Here's a story of how we got the first pictures of the whole Earth from space,
      Some LSD was involved in the original vision by Stewart Brand (who was close friends with the Grateful Dead). I read this same story long ago, perhaps in one of the Whole Earth Catalogs. The link above quotes a piece of the original (which I didn't find online), seems like a faithful quote.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by krishnoid on Monday April 24 2023, @04:13AM (3 children)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Monday April 24 2023, @04:13AM (#1302740)

    But the space agency's engineers often direct their machines to peer back at the vivid blue dot in the distance.

    That apparently almost didn't happen [], at least the first time. If you want to hear Sagan's pale blue dot [] in his own recorded voice, it's worth the ~5 minutes of your time. It's useful when perspective proves elusive.

    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Monday April 24 2023, @06:40AM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 24 2023, @06:40AM (#1302749) Journal
      Thanks for the link.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by tangomargarine on Monday April 24 2023, @06:53AM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Monday April 24 2023, @06:53AM (#1302752)

      It's so weird that the farthest-from-home man-made object is still Voyager 1, launched in the 70s, which has massively outlived its expected service life (digression: RTGs []). They don't build them like they used to!

      The Wikipedia page [] is less helpful than it used to be :( So many years since then, and we still haven't even launched a probe that will make it that far, more-advanced technology or no.

      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday April 25 2023, @02:49PM

      by mcgrew (701) <> on Tuesday April 25 2023, @02:49PM (#1303055) Homepage Journal

      I used that photo on the back cover of Meditations, with the quote "And yet the whole Earth itself, what is it but as one point, in regard to the entire universe?" -- Marcus Aurelius

  • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Monday April 24 2023, @05:06PM

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 24 2023, @05:06PM (#1302811) Journal

    The one and only, the original Earth.

    Such beauty, such great pictures.

    Thank you NASA.