Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author who was an advocate for space-related sciences and space exploration, as well as skeptical inquiry and the scientific method. He was a pioneer of exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
Sagan who was educated at the University of Chicago and taught at Harvard and Cornell. He worked with the American space program from the 1950s as an advisor to NASA, where one of his duties included briefing the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon. Sagan contributed to many of the robotic spacecraft missions that explored the solar system, arranging experiments on many of the expeditions.
Sagan developed an unalterable and universal message for spacecraft destined to leave the solar system that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find it. The most elaborate was the Golden Record carried by the Voyager space probes in 1977. The Record included 116 images and a selection of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, and thunder, and animal sounds, including the songs of birds and whales; musical selections from different cultures and eras including Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky and Chuck Berry; and spoken greetings and printed messages in fifty-five languages.
Overall, Sagan’s greatest contribution was introducing a generation to the possibilities of space travel and the importance of scientific inquiry through his numerous books, articles, and even a TV series. Unfortunately, the Allen Telescope Array which has searched the skies for signs of intelligent life for decades was placed on hiatus when government funding was cut in April, 2011.
Tomorrow, The Apollo Program Rita Bay