Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ legacy lives on in new series

By: Linda B. Glaser,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 03/04/2020

Forty years after Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan first introduced the world to the wonders of science through his “Cosmos” television series, a new season of thought-provoking scientific adventures will air on the National Geographic Channel, beginning March 9. All but one of the science advisers for the acclaimed series are Cornell faculty.

 An image of stars and red landscapeThe five Cornell “Cosmos” advisers are all members of the interdisciplinary Carl Sagan Institute:

  • Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the institute and associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Jonathan Lunine, David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of astronomy;
  • Toby Ault, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences;
  • Mason Peck, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering; and
  • Alexander Hayes, associate professor of astronomy and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and the Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility.

“Once again Carl Sagan’s enduring vision of the cosmos sets sail across time and space, thanks to the extraordinary talents of Ann Druyan and her team,” said Lunine, who served as science adviser for the previous Cosmos season. “I was inspired by Carl’s books and by the original ‘Cosmos’ series during my student years, and so it is a moving and humbling experience to be even a small part of this new season.”

Said Kaltenegger: “‘Cosmos’ is inspiring people worldwide: It changes how we see the world by showing the fascination and beauty of science. Watching the new seasons of ‘Cosmos’ is watching our research here at the Carl Sagan Institute brought to life on screen.”

The Emmy Award-winning Druyan, board member of the Sagan Institute, serves as a writer, director and executive producer for the series.

 Ann Druyan's Cosmos book“‘Cosmos’ is much more than a dramatic, cinematic journey,” Druyan said in a statement. “We hope that it will awaken the widest possible global audience to the sacred searching at the heart of science. … ‘Cosmos: Possible Worlds’ is a vision of the future we can still have if we have the wisdom and the will to act on what the scientists are telling us.”

Lunine has a cameo in the “Cosmos” episode on NASA’s Cassini mission, along with some of the other original team leaders, who were filmed while gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Druyan’s companion book to the television series, “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” – a long-awaited follow-up to Sagan’s international bestseller, “Cosmos” – includes a still photo of the scene.

“Cosmos: Possible Worlds” airs from 8-10 p.m. EDT for seven weeks beginning March 9 in the U.S.; it will air globally, in 171 countries and 43 languages, and on Fox this summer. The previous season was seen by more than 135 million people worldwide.

Top image: Some of the original team leaders of NASA's Cassini mission, (left to right): Torrence Johnson, Jonathan Lunine, Jeff Cuzzi, Carolyn Porco, and Darrell Strobel, gathered in the VIP viewing area overlooking the Space Flight Operations Facility of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Deep Space Network in September 2017. (Cosmos Studios, Inc)


   Cassini team leaders standing at a window, looking up.

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