Pioneer plaque.svg

Pioneer plaque developed by Sagan, Drake, and Salzman

Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. Sagan played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.[1]

Pioneer plaquesEdit

Carl Sagan had lectured about hypothetical communication with extraterrestrial intelligences at a conference in Crimea. Eric Burgess approached Sagan with the idea that Pioneer 11 should carry a message from mankind. Burgess first mentioned the idea when he visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, during the Mariner 9 mission.

Sagan was enthusiastic about the idea of sending a message with the Pioneer spacecraft. NASA agreed to the plan and gave him three weeks to prepare a message. Together with Frank Drake he designed the plaque, and the artwork was prepared by Sagan's then wife Linda Salzman Sagan. Two Pioneer plaques were manufactured at Precision Engravers in San Carlos, California. The first plaque was launched with Pioneer 10 on March 2, 1972, and the second followed with Pioneer 11 on April 5, 1973.

Sagan's paradoxEdit

In 1966 Sagan was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to review Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force's UFO investigation project. The committee concluded that Blue Book had been lacking as a scientific study. The final report, led by physicist Edward Condon, concluded that UFOs, regardless of what any of them actually were, did not behave in a manner consistent with a threat to national security.

Regarding UFOs and the abduction experience, Sagan rejected an extraterrestrial explanation for the phenomenon but felt "there were both empirical and pedagogical benefits for examining UFO reports and that the subject was, therefore, a legitimate topic of study."[2] Sagan then helped to establish a new school of thought, the belief that extraterrestrial life exists but has nothing to do with UFOs. This came to be known as "Sagan's paradox". It allowed scientists opportunities to search the universe for intelligent life unencumbered by the stigma associated with UFOs.[3]


Contact ver2

Contact 1997

Carl Sagan wrote the science fiction novel Contact in 1985. It deals with the theme of contact between humanity and a more technologically advanced, extraterrestrial life form. The book was adapted to film in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film.

Martian markerEdit

Sagan's son, Nick Sagan, wrote several episodes in the Star Trek franchise. In an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise entitled "Terra Prime", a quick shot is shown of the relic rover Sojourner, part of the Mars Pathfinder mission, placed by a historical marker at Carl Sagan Memorial Station on the Martian surface. The marker displays a quote from Sagan: "Whatever the reason you're on Mars, I'm glad you're there, and I wish I was with you."



  1. Amazon's biography, Carl Sagan
  2. Appelle, Stuart (2000). "Ufology and Academia: The UFO Phenomenon as a Scholarly Discipline". In Jacobs, David M. UFOs and Abductions: Challenging the Borders of Knowledge. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 7–30. ISBN 0-7006-1032-4. LCCN 00028970. OCLC 43615835.
  3. David Jacobs "The UFO Controversy In America" (1987), p.122-124

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