There aren’t any space missions like the Voyagers on the docket for the future, but both spacecraft continue beaming back data going on 40 years and counting. Voyager 1 became the first human-made thing to enter interstellar space, back in 2012 when it passed into the heliosphere, the bubble surrounding our solar system. Voyager 2 is expected to pierce the heliosphere around 2020.
In 2018, the most advanced space telescope ever made—the James Webb Space Telescope—will peer deeper into the universe than ever before. No doubt, images will once again reshape our perspective of what’s out there, solving mysteries while revealing new ones simultaneously. There’s power in these photos.
Anders’ Earthrise image helped jumpstart the first environmental movement, cementing the idea that our planet is vulnerable. Seeing Earth as a whole, partly obscured in shadow, cemented the “Spaceship Earth” concept forwarded by British economist Barbara Ward-Jackson. To her, Earth was like a starship floating through space with finite resources, and it was up to Earth’s “crew” to manage them carefully.
Only a handful of people will ever behold Earth in its entirety; the rest of will have to rely on secondhand images.
There are probably many reasons why Carl Sagan fought so hard for that photo, and surely one of them was the desire to stare reality in the face, to help us comprehend the incomprehensible. There’s a lot at stake in the world right now, particularly for science. So on a day where we traditionally acknowledge our love for another, remember that this tiny blue mote of dust is all we have.
This post originally appeared on Discover.