The Champion of Space Science

Sagan's first appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1973 was a five-minute slot at the end. He was a natural, very comfortable behind the camera, and had a way with words that caused the audience to watch, listen, and want to know more. He was so popular that Carson had him back three weeks later, which pleased the publishers of The Cosmic Connection, his 1973 book about the universe.


In the late 1970s, PBS devised a landmark science miniseries named Cosmos,hosted by celebrity scientist Carl Sagan. The series was created partly in answer to sophisticated BBC productions such as the award-winning The Ascent of Man. The goal of Cosmos was to introduce science to the mainstream community by explaining astrophysics, astronomy, cosmology, evolution, molecular biology, and the search for life beyond Earth in simplified terms via television. The $8 million in funding for the 13 one-hour episodes came from the Atlantic Richfield Company, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Aside from Sagan's own production company called Carl Sagan Productions (formed after the disappointing coverage of the Viking missions to Mars) and KCET public television in California, coproducers were also the BBC and West Germany's Polytel International.

The original title considered for the show was Man in the Cosmos; however, Sagan's wife, Ann, regarded the title as sexist and suggested a change to simply Cosmos. The show's veteran producer was Adrian Malone, who produced The Ascent of Man and The Age of Uncertainty. He and Sagan hired special-effects artists who had worked

Following his experience on The Tonight Show, Sagan soon realized the potential of television as an educational tool. Many of his scientific peers scoffed at the concept of exobiology, but the public tended to be more open-minded. Realizing he would probably never find satisfactory support from within the science community, he decided to take his science and educate the populace. Television became a way for him to do that. Sagan approached exobiology with stubbornness and determination. He did not care about the more conservative views of other scientists or what they might be on the movie Star Wars and computer graphics specialists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Shooting and production for Cosmos commenced in 1979, during which time the production staff consulted more than 100 different scientists concerning scientific accuracy and verification of facts. By September 1980, the show debuted on PBS, featuring the most extensive use of special effects ever in a documentary program. The theme music, composed by Vangelis and titled "Heaven and Hell—3rd Movement (Theme from the TV series 'Cosmos')" was as remarkable as the effects and later went on to become a popular soundtrack.

Throughout the show, Sagan used a stage designed to resemble the inside of a spaceship that he called "a ship of the imagination," and would feign using the ship's crystalline controls as he transported viewers on a cosmic voyage to explore pulsars, quasars, supernovas, the planets of our solar system, and to examine the potential of life beyond Earth.

As luck would have it, an actors' strike in 1980 forced networks into broadcasting reruns well into the fall season. Many viewers turned to PBS for fresh entertainment. Cosmos snared a great many viewers, received great ratings, and eventually won Emmy Awards (for excellence in the advancement of the arts and sciences of television) and Peabody Awards (recognizing outstanding achievement in electronic media, including radio, television, and cable). It was viewed by more than 500 million people in more than 60 countries. PBS still considers Cosmos its most popular broadcast.

saying about his work. Through the media, he sought to share his ideas with the public and lead them to explore the unexplored, ask the unasked, to prove that there are no embarrassing questions, and to show that there are no embarrassing subjects throughout the search for new knowledge.

By 1978, one year after he announced his divorce from Linda Salzman, Sagan had appeared frequently on television and was rapidly becoming a scientific celebrity. People loved him and he loved their attention. It was during this time that plans began for Cosmos, an ambitious 13-part PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) series on space hosted by Sagan. This was also when Sagan met Ann Druyan, a woman who later became his third wife and constant companion for the rest of his life. She was very involved with nearly everything Sagan did, from coauthoring Comets (1985) and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992), to giving valuable input regarding Cosmos, the television series.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know all about the telescopes that can provide a fun and rewarding hobby for you and your family!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment