Carl Sagan, everyone's favorite late astronomer, would have been 78 today. We can't think of anyone who inspired so many people to love science and the universe than good old Sagan. This year, we're looking back to an interview with the scientist that appeared in our September 1972 issue. At the time, he was really stoked about Mars.
At the time of publishing, the scientific community was trying to figure out just what Mars was like, and photos from the Mariner 9, a NASA space orbiter, had recently revealed that the red planet was completely different than we thought. The scientific community decided that Mars was a dead planet, but the photos showed evidence of high winds, dust storms, massive geological craters that would rival the Grand Canyon, and the possibility of running water. PopSci turned to Carl Sagan to explain these exciting new findings.
Sagan told us the Mariner 9 photo results he found most significant were evidence of changes due to windblown dust, evidence of volcanic activity, evidence of running water and recession of polar caps. These findings are now coming full circle as the Curiosity rover gets up close and personal with the Martian terrain. It only took some 40 years.
Though many thought that conditions on the red planet--including low night temperatures and lack of atmospheric oxygen and ozone--were too harsh to support life, Sagan begged to differ. According to his research, microorganisms did have a chance for life on Mars. Here's what he said on the subject:
Sagan also believed there could have been water on Mars as recent as 100 years before the interview:
If only Carl Sagan could see what we're doing on Mars now! He died in 1996 in Seattle, but perhaps he would've been really excited to know that a rover was giving itself dust baths on a nearby planet.
Read the full story in our September 1972 issue: Close Up Photos Reveal A Turbulent Mars.
Sagan died in '96, not 2006.
I miss him,his insight to theoretical origins of man,universe,everything to do with science. I have all his cosmos shows on record. I think he was a silent generation pre boomer...they say the generation before the baby boomers began the technical age by far,just look into the history books with names of the scientific discoverers and their acheivements. The minds of that pre boomer generation basically gave us our cushy life that we know now,fact.
I had no idea he died so long ago. I would have thought it was 2006.
It just shows that imagination and science make a great combination. How many discoveries were accurately predicted by both scientist and laymen speculation?
The early astronomers began their career as nothing more than curious laymen.
They told us that there were planets around the stars, and definitely life on many of them. But we preferred to continue believing fairy tales, than the speculation of an intelligent man.
Its not as if we know what we are looking for anyway.
It is possible that when we find life on another world we might take a look at Earth and find it here also. Or vice versa. It might be on every comet or large rock floating in space.
During my college years, I took a course called Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I adore the course and his documentaries and comments throughout the years. He has always been a interesting, informative and exciting scientist to listen too!
Ahh Sagan, a man from back when Darwinism wasn't looking so frail. At least we can look back at him as a guy who generated ideas for good science fiction.
If interested in Mars, please look into “Monuments of Mars” by Richard C Hogland