When the news broke last year that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was involved in resurrecting Carl Sagan’s legendary space documentary series Cosmos, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t reading The Onion. But no, it was real: MacFarlane is working with writer/producer Ann Druyan and astrophysicists Steven Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson to create Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, which is slated to air on Fox sometime next year. Now MacFarlane has proven to be even more unexpectedly likable by donating the cash to help the Library of Congress acquire many of Sagan’s personal papers.
MacFarlane told the Wall Street Journal that he was a huge fan of Cosmos and Sagan’s books growing up, and he wanted to help ensure that the late scientist’s work would be accessible to the public. “All I did was write a check, but it’s something that was, to me, worth every penny,” says MacFarlane. The documents filled over 800 filing-cabinet drawers, a colossal collection that includes letters, drafts of articles, various versions of the Contact screenplay (based on Sagan’s novel), and even some of his grade-school report cards and childhood drawings.
MacFarlane’s recent passion for Sagan and involvement with the new version of Cosmos came about after he met the scientist’s widow, Ann Druyan. MacFarlane hopes that the new series will reignite the public’s passion for science and space exploration, a crucially important goal in an age when science is considered untrustworthy or elitist by an alarming number of Americans. As MacFarlane put it:
In the late ’60s, they just assumed that would be a given, that things would continue to progress and that the space program would continue to evolve, and it was a no-brainer that we would have a presence on the moon by 2000. We’re so far away from that, and it should be embarrassing.