Carl Sagan was at one time America’s most famous college professor, a personality who lit up The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and brought the universe to life in the 13-part series Cosmos.
Though the Cornell University astronomer died nearly 20 years ago, his legacy has returned thanks to a re-imagining of his trademark PBS series. The new version of Cosmos, titled Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, may bring new special effects and a larger audience on Fox, but the fingerprints of Carl Sagan are evident throughout.
The new series features scientist and educator Neil deGrasse Tyson in Sagan’s place, himself an admirer of Sagan’s work. The re-envisioning will even get an introduction from President Obama, who “invites a new generation to embrace the spirit of discovery and inspires viewers to explore new frontiers and imagine limitless possibilities for the future,” according to a statement issued by Fox.
Carl Sagan had an integral part of the birth of America’s space program. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA in the 1950s and briefed the Apollo astronauts before their trip to the moon. He also helped discover the reason behind high temperatures on Venus, seasonal changes on Mars, and the reddish tint on the moon Titan.
For his contributions, Sagan received a slew of medals from NASA, the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award from the American Astronautical Society, and even had an asteroid named after him.
Even after being diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a rare bone marrow disease, Sagan continued working feverishly until his death two years later.
In a segment taped for Nightline just weeks before his death, Sagan put his life — and all of human existence — into perspective.
“We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of other galaxies. … That is a perspective on human life and our culture that’s well worth pondering.”
Carl Sagan could still have influence on the future of space travel. He had a longtime dream of travel and eventual colonization of Mars, and even recorded a message to future Martians from his home in Ithaca, New York.