Ann Druyan, husband of the late Carl Sagan and co-writer of the 'Cosmos' TV Series and films such as 'Contact', was recently asked "What would Carl Sagan think about the current state of the world?" Her answer which I will get to shortly, reminded me of the endless optimism, open awareness, and vast scientific knowledge that both she and Sagan graciously shared with the world.
Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science popularizer. I have had an enormous amount of respect for both Druyan and Sagan ever since I was a child first realizing the endless possibilities of scientific exploration. Their scientific contributions, intellectual prowess, grace/beauty, courage, and open-mindedness were the impetus for me to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering (which took many wild turns over the years).
As a nerdy little surfer kid growing up in San Diego during the 80s, I was fascinated with studying space exploration as well as unlocking the secrets of the universe. I was always reading rather heavy stuff and I remember finding my father's copy of Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' at which point my mind opened up to the endless possibilities of not only my career, but my own enlightenment. Thus began my life-long fascination with astrophysics and space exploration.
Unfortunately, after the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, my dreams of becoming an Aerospace Engineer were shattered into a million pieces as every single graduate and undergraduate university program in this field was placed on a multi-year hiatus. Just as I was applying to universities, all university professors in the field of aerospace left their university posts to help NASA gain a solid understanding of what went wrong exactly. I will never forget my letter from UCSD stating "although you are highly suited to pursue the Aerospace Engineering program at UCSD, we must inform you that this area of study will be impacted for several years and therefore not available at this time"... I was CRUSHED because I had dreamed of designing spacecraft since I was a child. I recall my head was spinning and there was a nagging sense of "What the fuck am I gonna do now?"
What I did finally end up doing is a story for another day. But the knowledge and ideals shared by Carl Sagan stayed with me and his open-minded approach to EVERYTHING was extremely contagious and inspirational.
Some of his thoughts can be summarized here by Ann Druyan, husband of Carl Sagan when she was asked "What would Carl Sagan think about the current state of the world?"
I can speak authoritatively on that because Carl was very vocal in the 1990s, 1980s, and before that. It was his dream that the United States, and Soviet Union, would essentially bury the hatchet, and become involved in an international mission to Mars. He wrote a beautiful piece called "Together to Mars", which was exactly about that. That we could use our machismo and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and scientific cleverness, to go there. We could show that we had attained a degree of maturity, and put our talents to the best possible use.
'Together to Mars' was a concept shared by Sagan at the end of the cold war during the late 1980s where he envisioned the USA and Soviet Union getting over their differences and focusing on a bold mission to go to Mars together.
He outlined all the steps necessary to complete such a mission and even got together some of the greatest minds in science for a 3-day satellite conference link-up from Denver to Moscow where leading scientists put aside their political differences and talked about a future joint mission to Mars.
Due to the end of the cold war, and later Sagan's death, the Mars mission was tabled. Regardless, Sagan was far ahead of his time and his thinking is still applicable today. I could easily see the United States and Russia working together on future Mars Missions and I see every reason in the world for making this happen now. Two outer-space super-powers merged together with one common goal, to get Man to Mars… this is the stuff of history books!
Perhaps now that we have gotten over the "Russian Collusion Scam" purported by Hillary Cinton in an effort to cover-up her own Russian ties, it's a perfect time to rise above and show the world that the USA and Russia CAN work together for the benefit of all humanity. What an awesome way to mend our differences and create a better tomorrow for everyone on planet Earth and beyond.
Aside from his aspirations for Mars, Carl Sagan and I have shared many profound observations over the years and I want to shed light on some of the main concerns that I still harbor which include:
1. We've built an entirely new society based upon science and technology, yet very few individuals have a truly solid and well-rounded understanding of it. Granted, there may be many new STEM graduates these days with various 'micro-focused' degrees, but what NEW knowledge/experience/insights will these individuals actually provide? And will they be remotely capable of 'thinking outside the box' after boxing themselves into their narrow fields of study?
2. Science is more than a body of knowledge, it's a way of thinking, and a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. We need to be VERY skeptical of those (Deep State) whom provide and/or hold back scientific knowledge and information from 'The People'. The People must learn to practice their skepticism, otherwise we won't run the government, but the government will run us.
3. Simply because we have the ability to venture to other planets, this does NOT give us an excuse to destroy our home planet of Earth. Many of the companies pursuing future Mars missions are doing so as a 'back-up plan' in the event that life is no longer habitable here on Earth. This way of thinking is a cop-out, we should be focusing all of our attention to preserving life here on Earth WHILE we explore other planets. We must use our fresh interplanetary knowledge to help make planet Earth MORE habitable, not less.
To summarize, Carl Sagan was light-years ahead of his time and he was a genuine master scientist and communicator. I find it refreshing how relevant his words remain as I follow his ever-lasting passion for scientific knowledge and enlightenment...