Journalist Larry Klaes sent us this link at Altair VI, where David Portee’s wrote an excellent blog post about Sagan’s roll in determining landing sites for a Mars lander.
Carl Sagan, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard, and Paul Swan, Senior Project Scientist at Avco Corporation, published results of their study of possible Voyager Mars landing sites in the January-February 1965 issue of the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. For their study, they invoked a Voyager design Avco had developed in 1963 on contract to NASA Headquarters. The “split-payload” design comprised an orbiter “bus” and a landing capsule. They would leave Earth together on a Saturn IB rocket with an “S-VI” upper stage.
The Voyager lander would be sterilized to prevent biological contamination of Mars. Near Mars it would separate from the orbiter, enter the martian atmosphere, and float to the surface on a parachute. It would operate on Mars for 180 days. The Voyager orbiter, meanwhile, would fire rockets to slow down and enter martian polar orbit, where it would photograph the surface and serve as a radio relay for the lander.
The Voyager program turned 30 yesterday. To celebrate this greatest of human accomplishments, Celebrating Sagan has compiled this brief list of articles discussing the splendor and glory of Voyagers I and II.
- NASA: Voyager at 30: Looking Beyond and Within
- Space.com: Voyager Spacecraft Celebrate 30th Anniversary
- UFO.Whipnet: NASA’s Golden Gift to the Aliens: 30 Years Later
- WikiPedia: Voyager program
Also, please listen to the Sounds of Sagan audio player to hear some of the actual recordings on the Golden Record.
I remember ten years ago today very well. I was in Hawaii and received a phone call very early in the morning from a fellow colleague and friend of both mine and Sagan’s, telling me that Carl had died. We talked for a long time. It was such a shock: We had all thought he was out of the woods.
I had the privilege of knowing Carl ever since I was a young graduate student in planetary sciences, and working with him on the Voyager imaging team. He was a very special individual. And very old world, too. I always half expected him to kiss my hand and bow whenever we greeted each other. Such a gentle man was he.
I remember being thrilled to be asked to work with him, his wife Ann Druyan, and others in crafting the on-screen character of the protagonist, Ellie Arroway, in the movie he never lived to see, Contact. I decimated the original script, had very little to say about it that was any good, and yet he graciously, even eagerly, accepted all my criticisms. It was just the way he was.
In my mind, he set the standard for how a scientist should conduct himself: Open to all ideas and opinions, and with grace and dignity, ready to do intellectual battle in defense of the truth.
There have been many people who have been touted as `the next Carl Sagan’, but he was truly irreplaceable. I, for one, miss him a great deal, and often find myself wishing that he were around to calm the hysteria and steer us right.
To paraphrase his own words: In a hundred billion galaxies, we will not find another.
The day he died, I was asked by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to submit my thoughts on his death for their on-line memorial. This is what I wrote:
“Of all the people I have met in the course of my scientific career, no one was more gracious, understanding, respectful and encouraging towards me than Carl. From my very first professional presentation at the age of 21, to my current position as the Cassini imaging team leader, Carl was there, always, with a kind, gentle word of support. I believe that he cared for people, genuinely, in that special way that distinguishes great humanitarian leaders. And I believe that underlying his life’s work was a bedrock faith in the fragility, dignity and goodness of all humankind.
“His passing is a heartbreaking loss – for his family, for the community of scientists that he walked among, and for the world. We who remain on Earth have lost our guardian angel. He is part of the cosmos now.”
Perhaps a bit over the top at the end, but then again, it was a sad day and I was crying when I wrote it.
Cassini Imaging Team leader
PS: For those who might want to read about Carl’s life in brief, here is a review, published in the Guardian, that I wrote of one of the biographies about him that came out soon after his death. It is here, at the Guardian.
The following excertp is from Dean W. Armstrong‘s look at Dr. Sagan’s roll as an astronomer at the University of Chicago.
He was a student here at Chicago; he was, as the picture indicates, president of the University of Chicago Astronomical Society (now known as the Ryerson Astronomical Society). After his short stay in the college he went to the Astronomy department and left a Ph.D.
I often wonder what the dismal atmosphere of a coal-smoked Chicago was like for astronomy in the early fifties–and whether the old cranky telescope (fifty-two years old then, in 1952) did anything to inspire future thoughts. His logs are short, and there never seemed to be much observing or possibility of observing. See here for a scan of a sample logbook page. Or here for the entire text of the 1952-1964 logbook.
This video from 1963 shows a rehearsed Sagan discussing the atmosphere of Venus.
Fortunately, two interviews from the last two years of Sagan’s life are available to watch on Video.Google.
Or, if you prefer, you can check out the audio from these interviews on the Sounds of Sagan, on the sidebar.
In addition to the post by Bryan H. on a patent issued to Carl Sagan, A. Bar-nun and S. Bauer on March 18, 1972, I found this one:
Christopher Niebylski, The World Bank.
The Planetary Society was not only started by Dr. Sagan, but it is also a great resource of information on him and the World’s largest Space-interest group.
Also, as it is the holiday season, why not make a donation to SETI in commemoration of Dr. Sagan in a loved one’s name? They are always desperate for funding, and it could make a nice gift to the science enthusiast in your circle.
Are you a Space enthusiast with lots of idle disk space you don’t use, and are hard up for cash to make a donation? Well here’s an alternative to a donation that’s just as good if not better: download the BOINC client program and give a portion of your disk to research sciences. There’s a few to choose from and SETI is one of them.