I had met Sagan when he served on a panel during my NASA Ames stopover, where he was in a group commenting on the first Viking photos to arrive from Mars. We were the first to see these photos, line by line, being posted unto the auditorium screen in Mountain View before they were released into TV land. Who knows, maybe fuzzy Green Ladies could have shown up. I still remember Sagan pontificating as to why the color of Mars had a salmon-tinge, and commented so in fine scientific detail…except, well into his elocution, a technician sheepishly commented, “Dr. Sagan, we haven’t yet applied the correction filters.” That’s the only time I saw Sagan visibly embarrassed. It turned out that the addition of the filters did not change the salmon hue.
Sagan's contribution to the 1969 symposium was an attack on the belief that UFOs are piloted by extraterrestrial beings:
At 11 billion miles, Voyager 1 is the farthest manmade object from Earth. Launched in 1977, we still communicate and it responds. It takes 17 hours for a message to reach the satellite. This means that this craft has been traveling at around 35,000 miles per hour. It will be another 40,000 years before it gets close to a star, Gliese 445, but still 1.6 light years away.
- Termed "one of the greatest voyages of exploration ever conducted."
- Could only be launched in a few month period in 1977 to take advantage of the conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, or else, we have to wait for another 175 years.
- They were each the size and weight of a subcompact automobile.
- As they swung by, the handfull of Saturn's rings turned out to be thousands of ringlets.
- Volcanoes appeared on Jupiter's Io and Neptune's Triton, and the latter at 40 C above absolute zero.
- Alien life was deemed possible on Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus.
- The latest projection is that both will stop communicating in 2030. They use Plutonium-powered electric generators.
- But that will not be the end. They will become time capsules for aliens to capture.
- Each, thus, has a golden record, with a shelf life of around a billion years. Carl Sagan chaired the committee that produced this message from Planet Earth. Watch the two-hour presentation.