“Every saint and sinner in the history of our species has lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” The Life Story of Carl Sagan, One of the Most Famous Scientists in the World (Part II)
An American astronomer of Ukrainian origin, exobiologist, publicist and visionary Carl Sagan played one of the leading roles in the US space program and gave impetus to the development of the SETI project to search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
He was very eager to find extraterrestrial life. And he even founded the Planetary Society for this purpose, which brought together earthlings interested in space and the future of their planet. The society’s mission is: “Empowering the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration.” Now it has about 60,000 members from over 100 countries.
In the 1950s, the entire scientific world assumed that life on Mars was possible. Carl Sagan was a great enthusiast in this matter. One of his most ardent desires was to find a new civilization on this red ball with craters.
“We will not receive letters from recent emigrants that would help us understand a new country, only digital data transmitted at the speed of light by soulless robots. They tell us that the new worlds are nothing like our home. But we continue to search for the inhabitants of these worlds. This is how we are arranged – life stretches for life,” he wrote in his book Pale Blue Dot. The cosmic future of humanity.
In the 60s, Sagan took an active part in the Mariner program and was the first to view 22 TV pictures from Mars sent by the Mariner 4 spacecraft. From photographs and observations of the Red Planet, as well as how the hue of its surface changes, Carl Sagan came to the conclusion that Mars is covered with a thin layer of reddish dust that is carried by the wind on the surface. In fact, the planet is not so red after all.
However, life has not been observed on Mars. Three more Mariners transmitted images before scientists had to admit that no one lives here.
Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena
Most likely, Carl Sagan was not satisfied with this conclusion, and in one of his essays Can Our Presence Be Detected? he described a comic story about how a Martian astronomer was looking for life on Earth and could not find it. Because it was a completely different, not like Martian, life.
Not so long ago, the Curiosity rover drilled the surface of Mars and discovered the remains of ancient water. We think Carl Sagan would rejoice.
MESSAGE ON GOLD DISCS
In 1964, from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, Carl Sagan, together with Frank Drake, the author of the same equation that allows you to calculate the number of planets in the universe, sent a message into space. It encoded data on the population of the Earth, the structure of DNA and biochemistry, information about the solar system and the Arecibo telescope itself.
It is planned that the message will reach its addressee – the constellation in the Hercules cluster – in 25 thousand years. Perhaps the answer will follow immediately, and descendants will be able to decipher it.
The reputation of “cosmic romance” led Carl Sagan not to stop at one message from earthlings. In 1972 and 1973, aluminum plates were sent aboard Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 with a schematic representation of the representatives of the planet: men and women against the background of the silhouette of the spacecraft – to understand the size.
The plates also included a simple rebus for smart extraterrestrial civilizations: they depicted the hydrogen atom as the main element of the Universe, an electron and a proton, and also drew our address in the solar system. Carl Sagan wrote about all this in one of his books.
However, the astronomer’s most original work is his Message to Extraterrestrial Civilizations. Now it has been flying between the stars for more than 40 years aboard the interplanetary vehicles Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
Gold-plated copper records with audio and video recordings, stories in 55 languages (including dead ones), classical music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, as well as dance music by Chuck Berry and Louis Armstrong went into space.
Recorded on the plates are Georgian choral singing, ancient Chinese music and songs of the peoples of New Guinea, as well as various sounds from the Earth: birdsong, human steps, the sound of rain, thunderstorms and the ocean. Astronomers could not resist, and added to the appeal of UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and US President Jimmy Carter.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Carter said the following, “This is a gift from a small distant world. We hope the day will come when we will join the galactic civilization. These records represent our hopes, our determination and our good will in this vast and awe inspiring universe.”
On February 14, 1990, Carl Sagan received an image taken by Voyager 1. The photo was immediately named Pale Blue Dot. It depicts our planet from a distance of 6 billion km.
“This is our house. This is us. Everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever heard of, all the people who have ever existed lived their lives on it,” said Carl Sagan, showing this photo in his lectures. “Our many pleasures and sufferings, thousands of self-confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and gatherer, every hero and coward, every builder and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every couple in love, every mother and every father, every capable child, inventor and traveller, every ethicist, every deceitful politician, every “superstar”, every “greatest leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species has lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
The brilliant scientist Carl Sagan really wanted to be remembered as a man who would discover other civilizations for us. The most interesting thing is that his mission has every chance of success.