Carl Sagan

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Dr. Carl Edward Sagan on the set of Cosmos
Earth as seen from Voyager 1 from a distance of over 4 billion miles. Carl Sagan encouraged NASA to take the image as part of a 60 frame mosaic for a portrait of our solar system, it was dubbed "The Pale Blue Dot"

Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Samuel Sagan, was an immigrant garment worker. His mother, Rachel Molly Gruber, was a housewife from New York. Carl was named in honor of Rachel's biological mother, Chaiya Clara.

Sagan was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences. He is best known for his contributions to the scientific research of extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them.

He was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA since its inception, briefing the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon, and was an experimenter on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions to the planets. Sagan argued the now accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperatures of Venus can be attributed to and calculated using the greenhouse effect.

For his work, Dr. Sagan received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service, as well as the NASA Apollo Achievement Award. Asteroid 2709 Sagan is named after him, as well as many other honors, honorary degrees, citations, and awards.

Dr. Sagan was elected Chairman of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, President of the Planetology Section of the American Geophysical Union, and Chairman of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For twelve years he was the editor-in-chief of Icarus, the leading professional journal devoted to planetary research. He was cofounder and President of the Planetary Society, a 100,000-member organization that is the largest space-interest group in the world; and Distinguished Visiting Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Sagan He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books, many of which became best sellers. In particular "Cosmos", which became the bestselling science book ever published in English. The accompanying Emmy and Peabody award-winning television series has been seen by a billion people in sixty countries. His novel, "Contact", was made into a major motion picture.

In their posthumous award to Dr. Sagan of their highest honor, the National Science Foundation declared that his "research transformed planetary science… his gifts to mankind were infinite."

Dr. Sagan's surviving family includes his wife and collaborator of twenty years, Ann Druyan; his children, Dorion, Jeremy, Nicholas, Sasha, and Sam; and grandchildren.

Pale Blue Dot

A narrow-angle color image of the Earth, the "Pale Blue Dot" is a part of a 60 frame mosaic of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1 from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic.

Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size, a tiny blue point of light as seen in the rays from the Sun, the result of sunlight scattering off parts of the camera and its sunshade. The image of the Earth is in the third diffraction pattern to the right. The shape of the diffraction artifact in the image is of the calibration lamp which is mounted in front of the wide-angle lens of Voyager 1. Carl Sagan encouraged NASA to generate this image.

Carl Sagan titled his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space after the photograph. In it, he expresses his thoughts of the historic first-ever image:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again 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.

Vision of Mars

Visions of Mars is a message from our world to future human inhabitants of Mars, which launched on its way to the Red Planet in 2007 aboard the spacecraft Phoenix. Along with personal messages from leading space visionaries of our time, the message will include a priceless collection of Mars literature and art, and a list of hundreds of thousands of names of space enthusiasts from around the world. The entire collection will be encoded on a mini-DVD provided by The Planetary Society, which will be affixed to the spacecraft.

Carl Sagan recorded a message to the future Martians from near his home in Ithaca, New York, with a water fall cascading in the background.

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