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Café de Sagan

While strolling along The Philosopher's Path (left) from Ginkaku-ji in northeast Kyoto this summer, my fiancé and I passed this little coffee shop, Café de Sagan. Of course we were drawn to the name, but it's location on a beautiful stone path that borders a canal known as the Walk of Philosophy made its appearance serendipitous indeed. We stopped in for tea and coffee. Inside ambient music reminiscent of the Cosmos soundtrack drifted toward the front from speakers in back, no kidding. We asked the woman serving us about the name, and with her limited English and my fiancé's limited Japanese we gathered that the two characters (seen below) are pronounced say-gun, roughly translating as "We hope you come again." A chance discovery with some karmic undertones. A lovely spot. And good, strong coffee. Been meaning to share.


Altair VI: Sagan on Mars Landing Sites

Journalist Larry Klaes sent us this link at Altair VI, where David Portee's wrote an excellent blog post about Sagan's roll in determining landing sites for a Mars lander.

Carl Sagan, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard, and Paul Swan, Senior Project Scientist at Avco Corporation, published results of their study of possible Voyager Mars landing sites in the January-February 1965 issue of the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. For their study, they invoked a Voyager design Avco had developed in 1963 on contract to NASA Headquarters. The "split-payload" design comprised an orbiter "bus" and a landing capsule. They would leave Earth together on a Saturn IB rocket with an "S-VI" upper stage.

The Voyager lander would be sterilized to prevent biological contamination of Mars. Near Mars it would separate from the orbiter, enter the martian atmosphere, and float to the surface on a parachute. It would operate on Mars for 180 days. The Voyager orbiter, meanwhile, would fire rockets to slow down and enter martian polar orbit, where it would photograph the surface and serve as a radio relay for the lander.


Planet Walk.

From the Sagan Gathering:


Equal Time for Freethought

Carl Sagan fan and recent addition to the Celebrating Sagan family, Humanistic Joel provided us with this audio a few months ago, and we are proud to finally post here. To learn more about the following episodes of Equal Time for Freethought, or read to the transcripts visit Joel's site. Enjoy.


Planetary Imagery: 30 Years From Voyager Spacecraft

Wired has a gallery of Voyager photos up today that includes some Sagan material. There are some truly wonderful shots that I had never seen before.

Here's two that include mention of Dr. Sagan:


Voyager project manager John Casani displays the "Sounds of Earth" recording shortly before launch in 1977. The 12-inch gold-plated copper phonograph record was intended to serve as a time capsule that could communicate the story of Earth to extraterrestrials.

A NASA committee, chaired by renowned physicist Carl Sagan, assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds made by surf, wind, thunder, birds, whales and other animals. They also embedded musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings in 55 languages. Encased in protective aluminum jackets, each record had its own cartridge and a needle. Instructions written in symbols explained the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record was to be played


Famed astronomer Carl Sagan served as a spokesman for the Voyager spacecraft. Here, Sagan discusses the Voyager 2 in the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, California on January 18th, 1986.

The Mix Tape of the Gods.

Joel passed along an excellent Op-ed from today's New York Times about the 30th Anniversary of the Voyager program, and what the Gold Records mean.

Excerpt, from "The Mix Tape of the Gods," by Timothy Ferris, dated September 5th, 2007, The New York Times.

Forty thousand years will elapse before Voyager 1, departing the realm of the Sun at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour, passes anywhere near another star. (It will drift within 1.7 light years of a dim bulb called AC+79 3888.) And 358,000 years will elapse before Voyager 2 approaches the bright star Sirius.

Out there, our concepts of velocity become provincial. The stars are moving, too, in gigantic orbits around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Voyager, a toy boat on this dark sea, will not so much approach Sirius as watch it sail by, bobbing in its mighty wake.

Contemplation of Voyager’s billion-year future among the stars may make us feel small and the span of our history seem insignificant. Yet the very existence of the two spacecraft and the gold records they carry suggests that there is something in the human spirit able to confront vast sweeps of space and time that we can only dimly comprehend.


An Essay.

All apologies to Audrey who wrote this essay. She originally wrote it for the blog-a-thon, back in December '06, and unfortunately it fell through the cracks. Thanks go to Joel, though, for finding a home for the essay here, on Celebrating Sagan.

Ten years ago, the world lost a great man, astronomer, and teacher. Last month, Dr. Carl Sagan would have celebrated his 72nd birthday. I often wonder, if he had lived to see today, what he would think about the state of our world. I can only imagine the look of disappointment in his eyes, upon seeing our flimsy world held up by the hands of reckless politicians who attempt to prop up it up with nuclear weapons - the same politicians who have threatened our existence with their negligence, minimizing or flat out ignoring issues of global warming. Where are the necessary CO2 emission standards? Of course, it is far more convenient for our generation to ignore the issue of global warming due to it's gradual process (just as the evolutionary process of man is) which will affect future generations. By ignoring the growing problem, we are sentencing our children and grandchildren to a grim fate.

Why is it that most people are only willing to give attention to the acute issues of national and/or global security? Is the American public so short-sighted and selfish that we'll allow our world to crumble, so long as it doesn't happen within our lifetimes? For those people who question or ignore such unsettling truths, from where, I wonder, does their skepticism originate? Perhaps, just as many do with organized religion, people find comfort in that which is convenient.

Dr. Carl Sagan, a man who was deeply interested in the nature of all things, fought very hard to convey the urgent message to the public concerning our threatened existence, relating to the increasing number of nuclear weapons being produced, and those countries who have ownership over them - including the U.S. Which raises another question: why do we feel so entitled? Why should we, and only we be able to have nuclear weapons? Are we really so sane and trustworthy?

Carl also stressed the importance of our government's involvement in regulating the number of CO2 emissions into our atmosphere. Without the United States intervention, as we are the leading contributor in this issue, our temperatures will continue to rise in relation to the number of CO2 particles in our atmosphere, unleashing a global disaster.

More than anything, Carl often spoke of the importance of realizing that all human beings are one - born of the stars; one species, one family, and from the cosmic perspective, undivided by countries, political parties, religion, or race.

If we hope to live to see tomorrow so that we will be able to continue to learn more about ourselves, our world, and the infinite mysteries of the universe, as Carl hoped we would, we must come together and realize that there is a more worthy cause we all should be fighting for: the continuing existence of mankind.

We seem to have a purpose after all, and according to Carl, a spectacular one. We are, after all, "a way for the cosmos to know itself."

Let's honor him by listening to his message, and come together to take action.

"Our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical point in history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity, we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the universe, and to carry us to the stars."

-Carl Sagan, 1980.
from the series "Cosmos," (A Journey Through Space and Time.)