Pale Blue Spaceship Earth

No, I'm not asking us to paint the outside of the pavilion.

As I talked about a little last time, the major issue with the current attraction is the descent.  The attraction builds to a climax at the top of the pavilion, then there is a massive change in gears to the JibJab-esque cutouts is so painful that it kind of ruins the message of the entire pavilion.

Now, I'll submit that there is some worry here if we were to update it to show communications technology, which is changing at such a rapid pace that any update that focuses on technology is going to be out of date before the update is finished.

I'm going a different direction, and I'm using ... duh duh duuuuhhh... screens.

(Author's note:  I've seen a few people use this idea in imagineering an update to the pavilion.  I'm pretty sure that I wrote about it first here or more technically in a thread on the same forum that is not open to the public months before that, but I'm honest that I did not search around to see if others have suggested it before.  If so, let's just get together and celebrate our awesome idea.)

First, since we're updating the pavilion, let's give it a new script.  One that unifies the beginning and end of the attraction to come.  For the script, I'd reach out to Ann Druyan.  Widow of Carl Sagan, script co-writer of Cosmos, both Sagan and Tyson versions.  If you've watched either Cosmos, you know how well written that series was.  It was poetic in nature and that was by design.  Ann Druyan knew that presenting the science was not enough to engage the masses, it had to be done so well that it would draw in the masses.

Ann Druyan

Ann Druyan

 I'll be honest that I don't love parts of the current script ("call it the first backup system" makes me cringe every time Dame Judy says it).  I think that Ann Druyan would be able to write a magnificent script though, so I'd give her free reign on this.  Let her write the script that the pavilion deserves.

For narration, of course Neil deGrasse Tyson would be a perfect fit, and I'd love to have him read Ann's script and the descent I have in mind would be perfect.  I'd also love for him to come in and take over the entire Space pavilion and remake it, so if I have to pick just one, I think I'd let him go buck wild on Space.  If NdT can't read, we can grab Patrick Stewart.

Now the main update.  I alluded to the fact that the entire pavilion about communication builds up to that shot at the top, of us peering down on our Earth, the whole planet united as one small planet in one solar system in one galaxy in the infinite universe (and maybe one of many in an infinite multiverse if Brian Cox and friends are correct).  

This theme is an echo back to one of my favorite pieces of all time, Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot".  I'm going to both quote it and link to a video version of it as well.  

Original Pale Blue Dot photo.  Can you spot Earth?

Original Pale Blue Dot photo.  Can you spot Earth?

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

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. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. 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 with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— -- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Carl Sagan's famous 'The Pale Blue Dot' speech. Featured in the 2014 show 'Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey' - Episode 13 'Unafraid of the Dark' More about 'Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey here': All rights go to FOX Broadcasting Company USA.

I think that you may see where I am going here.  As we turn and are greeted by the climax, the Earth and we start our descent, we hear Carl Sagan's wonderful Pale Blue Dot speech.  Using a long, ribbon-like screen that follows us down the descent, a video like above is playing, showing us moving backwards away from Earth towards the outer reaches of the solar system.  We get farther and farther away from our home, passing planets and asteroid belts, with our Earth getting smaller and smaller, until we finally reach that iconic sunbeam off of Saturn, we have reached the end of his speech.

Updated Pale Blue Dot taken by Cassini in 2013 

Updated Pale Blue Dot taken by Cassini in 2013 

You should be able to picture this just by watching the video above, and hopefully you can see how much of an impact this could make.  It sets the tone for a new Epcot.  It unifies us as one world, it gives us a sense of perspective, and it honestly would give me chills every time.

Now, Sagan's Pale Blue Dot is only about the length of half of the descent, leaving us with another 3:00 or so.  I've gone back and forth on the order here for these, but think I've settled on it being in this order.



Once we hit the mote of dust in a sunbeam and Sagan completes "the only home we've ever known", the video picks up a small spacecraft, Voyager 1, racing out away from our solar system.  As a part of the Voyager project Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan worked together (with Ann as lead) to create a way to potentially communicate with anyone that might find Voyager in the vast reaches of space.  They created a golden record.  On this they put instructions in how to play the record, and they recorded a variety of sounds from planet Earth to try and help communicate who we are as a people to any civilizations that may encounter our little probe.  

The Golden Record

The Golden Record

On it are recordings of people saying hello in some of the most popular languages in the world.  On it are music pieces from different cultures.  On it are the sounds of a mother's first words to her child.  On it is a recording of the brain activity of a woman in love (Ann herself, days after Carl Sagan and her decided to marry).  The whole of humanity boiled down to sound, and etched onto a record made of gold with a potential lifespan of 1 billion years before the gold decays to where it is unusable.

I think that a very fitting follow up to the Pale Blue Dot would be to see Voyager and it's golden record, and then have Neil (or Ann herself) come on and explain the project.  This is in fact our attempt at communicating not just with each other here on Earth, but out into the stars.  There is such a beauty in what is recorded, what is trying to be done here.  Even though the changes are nearly zero that anyone will ever intercept Voyager, it is our attempt to share humanity with the universe.

So we go from the Pale Blue Dot to our message to the universe.  Communications taken beyond our Spaceship Earth. Play some of the sounds, interject thoughts on the creation of it, tell about the goals that they were trying to achieve when they created it.  Cover it's ideation, it's development, and it's journey.

As we wind down to the bottom and we've completed talk on the Golden Record, invite people to take a part in something new.  In the post-show, have a series of kiosks asking people to participate in a new Golden Record project.  Tell us what they would put onto a new Golden Record.  Let them explore the different sounds on the current one.  Heck, maybe try and work a deal with NASA to take the best suggestions (voted on by visitors maybe?) and put them on a new probe, or have them blasted out via radio waves into the galaxy.  Make communications inclusive and important to all again.

The overall update isn't massive.  Honestly, it's mostly script, audio, and a big winding video screen.  The impact however should however be great.  You have a Druyan scripted pavilion with the spectacular set design and animatronic characters, the iconic scenes like the Sistine Chapel, and you have the crescendo and climax, but instead of killing the momentum, you are actually continuing your journey now through space as Carl Sagan gives us the sense of perspective that our global community needs, and Ann Druyan talks to us about our attempts at communicating the best of humanity out to the galaxy.

I'd ride this over and over.  It would inspire me every time, as it does every time I hear Sagan's speech.  This update isn't hard, it just takes a commitment into doing something better with a pavilion that has meant so much for so long.