On October 24, 1946, a Vergeltungswaffen Vengeance 2 [or V-2] Aggregat-4 rocket; launched from the Alamogordo White Sands New Mexico Guided Missile Proving Range [or WSMR] by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory [or APL] principal staff engineer Clyde Holliday; captured grainy, barely legible black and white photos every second and a half from an altitude of 65 miles [343,200 feet].  These were the first photos ever taken of Earth as seen from beyond the atmosphere. 
In 1948, University of Cambridge Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy Sir Fred Hoyle predicted that the first images of Earth from space would change forever our view of our own planet.
On August 23, 1966 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [or NASA] Samuel Langley Research Center’s spacecraft “Lunar Orbiter 1” transmitted two crude black and white images to the California Institute of Technology [or CalTech]’s Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex [or MDSCC] in the Community of Madrid, Spain. These were the first photos of Earth from the distance of a spacecraft in the vicinity of the moon.
On the evening of December 24, 1968, during a live Christmas Eve television broadcast, the most-watched television program ever at the time, Apollo 8 Lunar Excursion Module [or LEM] pilot William Anders, one of the first three human beings to ever leave low Earth orbit, took NASA image AS8-14-2383, of the Earth’s terminator touching the lunar horizon.  “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring;” Said Apollo 8’s Command Service Module [or CSM] 103 Pilot James Lovell in the Christmas Eve broadcast; “And it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” In early 1969, NASA’s Lyndon Johnson Manned Spacecraft Center Operational Applications Office Photographic Technology Laboratory Manager Richard Underwood gave AS8-14-2383 the name “Earthrise”. 
In Life Magazine’s August 1, 2003 book “100 Photographs that changed the World”, Sierra Club Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography winner and International League of Conservation Photographers Honorary Fellow Galen Rowell called “Earthrise” “The most influential environmental photograph ever taken”. 
On December 7, 1972, University of Wisconsin—Madison Adjunct Professor of Engineering Physics Harrison Schmitt [B.S., Geology, California Institute of Technology; Ph.D, Geology, Harvard University]; pilot of the Lunar Module 12 “Challenger” for Apollo 17, the sixth and final Apollo lunar landing and the last mission of the Apollo program; took NASA photograph AS17-148-22727, or “The Blue Marble”.  It was the first image to show a fully illuminated Earth; at a distance of about 28,000 miles [147 million feet], at 5:39 AM Eastern Standard Time [or EST], 5 hours and 6 minutes after the 12:33 AM EST launch of Apollo 17 from John Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 [or LC-39], and 1 hour and 54 minutes after leaving Earth orbit. Mike Gentry of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration speculates that “The Blue Marble” is the most widely disseminated image in human history. 
On February 14, 1990, the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory [or JPL]’s spacecraft “Voyager 1”; when it reached the edge of the solar system at a distance of 40.11 Astronomical Units [3.7 billion miles] having completed its primary mission on November 20, 1980; was commanded by Caltech’s Candice Koharcheck and University of Colorado—Boulder Pace Science Institute Adjunct Professor Carolyn Porco to photograph 60 frames of the Earth at the Request of Cornell University Professor of Astronomy and Center for Radiophysics and Space Research Laboratory for Planetary Studies Director Carl Sagan [B.S., M.S., Physics; Ph.D. Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago].
In one of these grainy photographs, composed of 640,000 individual pixels, the Earth shows up as a fraction [0.12] of a single pixel in size in the center of one of the scattered light rays. Traveling at the speed of light, the image took 5 hours and 30 minutes to reach CalTech’s NASA Deep Space Network [or DSN]. In his 1994 book “A Vision of the Human Future in Space”, Sagan named this image the “Pale Blue Dot”:
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not—even to a very advanced alien being—seem of any particular interest.” Wrote Sagan in “Pale Blue Dot”. “But for us, it’s different. Consider again this pale blue dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On that dot everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. Every act of human heroism or betrayal, the sum total of human 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.” Sagan says. “What is the glory and triumph of the greatest conquerors and builders of empires? Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those general and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a blue 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 outside to save us from ourselves. Doing that is up to us.”
“The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life.” Sagan wrote in 1994. “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.” 
I remember as though it were just last month the day when I saw Schmitt’s “Blue Marble” image for the first time. I remember it in part due to the fact that, visually, it was severely disorienting for me. Every single map and globe of the Earth that I had ever seen up until that point has had the borders between nations and states clearly drawn, and had labels naming them. Every map and globe had dots and labels where cities were, and lines where roads went.
Even though the different continents and oceans are clearly visible in the “Blue Marble”, one will never find a single national boundary anywhere on it. No cities or roads are visible either. Looking at the image, one has little choice to wonder, as I did at the time, why it is that the borderlines that are drawn on every map and globe appear nowhere on this image.
The answer is, of course, that they do not actually exist in reality. All borderlines are nothing more than imaginary lines drawn across a planet with no nations or states. The only boundaries dividing the Earth are those which have separated people throughout the overwhelming majority of human history: oceans and mountain ranges. But oceans only divide continents from one another, not countries, and many countries including and especially our own span entire continents across multiple mountain ranges.
So why draw imaginary lines in the dirt? An answer that is at all rational or logical always has and continues to elude me. Nevertheless, I believe answering this question to be the quintessential starting point for any discussion or study of international relations. Paradoxically, in order to make any sense of how different nations interact with one another, I find it is frequently helpful to keep in the forefront of one’s mind the reality: That none of the nations you are studying actually exist at all.
As English songwriter John Lennon wrote in his October 11, 1971 song “Imagine”:
“Imagine there are no countries. It isn’t hard to do.”
And why did Lennon believe it was so easy to imagine that countries aren’t real? Because they aren’t.
Once one comes to terms with the concept that all of the borders separating nations are entirely imaginary, I find that all of the various interactions between the people of those countries that Sagan lists in “Pale Blue Dot” begin to make a lot more sense.
While buying into these imaginary borders is, admittedly, a prerequisite for studying what is, somewhat arbitrarily therefore, referred to as “foreign” policy; I think trying to make any sense of out of international interactions is not helped by the presupposition that the relatively petty and superficial differences the citizens of different countries draw between themselves and those of other countries have any objective basis in perceptible reality.
This is best illustrated, I believe, by the current “crisis” on the Southwestern border of the United States with the neighboring country of Mexico. This border is, like all others, entirely imaginary and somewhat arbitrarily drawn. However, as Sagan mentions in “Pale Blue Dot” what constantly both astounds and disgusts people such as myself is the blind dogmatic zealotry of the hatred and vitriol felt by citizens of this country toward those of the neighboring ones. Thought about from any objective perspective, such as that the alien intelligence Sagan mentions, it strikes one as unreasonable to the point of delusion for an American citizen of a border state such as Arizona, California, New Mexico or Texas to so fervently despise a child born perhaps only couple of dozen miles to the South on the other side of the imaginary borderline, and thereby, through no fault of their own, in a different country than the person who hates them was.
I remember that my Race, Ethnic, and Diversity Studies Professor once showed the class a video which asserted that the solution to racism was to become more aware of racial differences. I remember it in part because of how passionately I did then and do now disagree with such a statement. As, on any biological or physiological level, there exists only one human race, the logical conclusion is that race, and therefore by extension racism, only exists because we say it does. Therefore, buying in more to the myth of there being different races does not alleviate the problem of racism, it perpetuates and exacerbates it
The same, I believe, is true of national borders. Since, as Schmitt’s “Blue Marble” image clearly shows, there really are no such thing as nations or countries, it is logical to conclude that the number one cause of all international conflicts such as the one on America’s Southwestern border with Mexico is, above and beyond all else, people buying into the myth that imaginary lines drawn on a map are somehow not only real but, as Sagan notes, worth killing over.
1. Connor, Steve. “Forty Years since the First Picture of Earth from Space”. The Independent. Saturday January 10, 2009. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/forty-years-since-the-first-picture-of-earth-from-space-1297569.html
2. Cosgrove, Ben. “Home Sweet Home: In Praise of Apollo 17’s “Blue Marble”. Life Magazine. 2014. http://life.time.com/history/blue-marble-apollo-17-photo-of-earth-from-space/#1
3. Garber, Megan. “The First Image of Earth Taken From Space”. The Atlantic. August 6, 2012. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/the-first-image-of-earth-taken-from-space-its-not-what-you-think/260755/
4. Klueger, Jeffrey. “Earthrise on Christmas Eve: The Picture that Changed the World”. Time Magazine. December 24, 2013. http://science.time.com/2013/12/24/earthrise-on-christmas-eve-the-picture-that-changed-the-world/
5. Monamney, Terence. “No Place like Home”. The Smithsonian Institution. December 2002. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/no-place-like-home-1-73426396/
6. Neuman, Scott. “On Anniversary of Apollo 8, How the “Earthrise” Photo Was Made”. National Public Radio. December 23, 2013. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/23/256605845/on-anniversary-of-apollo-8-how-the-earthrise-photo-was-made
7. Reichardt, Tony. “The First Photo from Space”. Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. November 2006. http://www.airspacemag.com/space/the-first-photo-from-space-13721411/
8. Rosen, Rebecca. “An Early Draft of Carl Sagan’s Famous “Pale Blue Dot” Quote”. The Atlantic. February 3, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/02/an-early-draft-of-carl-sagans-famous-pale-blue-dot-quote/283516/