Carl Sagan’s message to future explorers of Mars
August 13, 2012
On the 25th of May 2008 the Phoenix safely landed upon Mars. It carried with it a DVD made of silica glass, designed to last the tens,hundreds or thousands of years it may take for humans to visit Mars and to rediscover it. It contained messages and artworks chosen for future visitors to discover when humans eventually travel to the planet. Among them was a message from the late Carl Sagan.
Music is Brian Eno, ‘An Ending (Ascent)’
“Hi, I’m Carl Sagan. This is a place where I often work in Ithaca, New York near Cornell University. Maybe you can hear, in the background, a 200-foot waterfall right nearby, which is probably — I would guess — a rarity on Mars, even in times of high technology.
Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century, particularly with respect to Mars. The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists to find out more about Mars, which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science; and that sequence has played major role in our present ability to get to Mars. It certainly was an important factor in the life of Robert Goddard, the American rocketry pioneer who, I think more than anyone else, paved the way for our actual ability to go to Mars. And it certainly played a role in my scientific development.
I don’t know why you’re on Mars. Maybe you’re there because we’ve recognized we have to carefully move small asteroids around to avert the possibility of one impacting the Earth with catastrophic consequences, and, while we’re up in near-Earth space, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to Mars. Or, maybe we’re on Mars because we recognize that if there are human communities on many worlds, the chances of us being rendered extinct by some catastrophe on one world is much less. Or maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there – the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be, because there’s a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process, we come after all, from hunter gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers. And, the next place to wander to, is Mars. But whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you.”