Deep space explorers: The Cultural Legacy and Historical Memory of Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2, from the Pale Blue Dot to SNL
Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 have the distinction of being the only human-made objects to have left or be on track to leave the Solar System (other than the recently launched New Horizons mission). While their scientific work is significant, the history of these four missions reveals a deeper cultural legacy. One of the primary public faces of these missions was science communicator Carl Sagan. By exploring how Sagan defined the significance of these missions in his work, we reveal the impact of these missions on our collective imaginings of spaceflight and space exploration (i.e. “astroculture”). We find that the twin Pioneers and Voyagers inspired self-reflexive ideas of human isolation and fragility within the cosmos, introduced communication with extraterrestrials as a serious aspect of spaceflight efforts, and supplemented the image of the astronaut with the robotic probe as the symbol of the human spirit of exploration.
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