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Overview Video Has Astronauts Talking About How Space Changed Their View Of The World

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If you’ve seen Gravity, you undoubtedly spent some of that time marveling at the views of Earth. Who cares if they were CGI? Even George Clooney’s astronaut Matt Kowalski, fully aware that he was approaching the end of his life, caught a glimpse of the Ganges and remarked over its beauty. People who have been to space report all kinds of effects that the experience has on their lives, and in the video called Overview, assembled by Planetary Collective, astronauts articulate how space changed their perspectives on the world.

In 1968, just before America put a man on the Moon, Apollo 8 astronauts circled the Moon and took photos of Earth, prompting the famous “Earthrise over the Moon” image. It was the first time people got to see Earth as a whole — not as countries delineated by boundaries and borders, not as people clashing over religion or other beliefs, but as one unified system. The astronauts in Planetary Collective’s short documentary Overview, which serves as a teaser for their feature-length documentary Continuum, talk about this pivotal moment and how their experiences in space changed their understanding of the world, themselves, and what it means to be human.

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Carl Sagan’s Words Accompany This Nifty Black And White Animation

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There are a wealth of things that are made better by having a Carl Sagan voiceover behind it. A trip to the dentist, getting a flat tire, and even childbirth. (I can’t speak from experience on that last one.) Computer animation and logo design company Mothlight Creations decided to use segments from arguably Sagan’s most profound work, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, to accompany their gorgeous black-and-white animated short From Dust. Of course this film can’t match the overwhelming sense of exploration that Sagan invokes, but it does a pretty damned good job.

It’s a vision we’ve all seen before: a rocket is getting read to take off into space, a wide-eyed astronaut on board, ready to conquer the galaxy. But director Daniel Winne lays on the old-timey effects to give it personality. The grain and artifacts on the “film” are almost too much at times, but it’s a great throwback to some of the actual footage taken during the heyday of the Space Race.

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TV Review: The Challenger Disaster Is A Surprisingly Compelling And Profound Docudrama

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I remember January 28, 1986. I was seven years old. I, like so many other excited students, gathered in the cafeteria of my school just before lunch to watch the Challenger take off. I didn’t know a whole lot about space back then, except that it was far away, huge, and mysterious, and that those qualities also made it pretty cool. I had absorbed by then, though, that going into space was Important. It was one of those adventures that has and hopefully will continue to define humankind. I also knew that on board that ship was a teacher who also happened to be a woman. This brought the mission much closer to home for me, as it did for so many people. I remember watching the liftoff and clapping along with everyone else, even the folks in NASA’s control room.

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Mars MAVEN Hopes To Crack The Mystery Of Mars

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MAVENIf the weather cooperates, tomorrow will mark another step in our long journey toward the Red Planet, with the launch of MAVEN. Mars has been an object of fascination for thousands of years. Our good friend Copernicus was the first person to postulate that Mars was a planet like Earth, which was one of the details in the heliocentric Solar System theory he published in 1543. From then on, astronomers have been studying the planet, and in 1965, spacecraft and probes joined the party. Mars has raised a multitude of questions, such as whether water exists there; whether little green aliens or some other life form exists or existed there; whether its moons are captured asteroids; and whether the planet could support human life. Key to that last question is Mars’s atmosphere, which is exactly what MAVEN will study.

Mars has changed drastically over time. It used to be warm and wet, likely supporting microbes that may have begun life on Earth, but now it’s a cold and barren desert. How did that happen? Mars used to have a thick, cloud-producing atmosphere, but over time, the atmosphere has all but vanished. Where did it go? Carl Sagan believes it’s trapped in the soil of Mars and that it might even be possible to release the atmosphere back into the sky, which would be one aspect of terraforming. But we don’t know, which is why we’re sending MAVEN to find out.

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Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan: A Tribute

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Carl SaganCarl Sagan would have been 79-years-old today. In light of that, a brief tribute to the most famous, most influential cosmologist of all time, is in order.

Sagan started as a professor of astronomy at Cornell, as well as a writer and an ambassador for science and scientific thinking. I learned more from watching Cosmos than from all the science classes I ever took combined. It’s not just that Sagan understands biology, cosmology, and geology—it’s that he understands how all of these disciplines connect. He is famous for articulating that humans are made of “star-stuff,” and driving home the mind-boggling point that the universe isn’t just out there—it’s in each of us. He simultaneously celebrates man’s uniqueness, while also emphasizing the need for humility, as man is but a tiny cog in a giant, giant wheel. Humankind may be tiny, but Sagan stressed that we are mighty, thanks to our individual and collective intelligence, curiosity, and resourcefulness. Space exploration, he argued, was a necessary human enterprise that would bring us answers and information helpful to life on each, but also much-needed perspective:

Space exploration provides a calibration of the significance of our tiny planet, lost in a vast and unknown universe. The search for life elsewhere will almost surely drive home the uniqueness of Man: The winding, unsure, improbable, evolutionary pathway that has brought us to where we are; and the improbability of finding – even in a universe populated with other intelligences – one with a form very much like our own. In this perspective, the similarities among men will stand out overwhelmingly against our differences.

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Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot Revisited, Plus More Symphony Of Science

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Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech from his book of the same name is easily one of my favorite things in the universe. The speech is in reference to an image of the Earth captured by Voyager 1 in 1990, taken from a distance of 3.7 billion miles. It shows our homeworld as little more than a speck, “suspended in a sunbeam.” Sagan’s eloquent monologue based on the image is both inspiring and humbling, demonstrating wonderfully that Sagan was often as much poet as scientist. There have been numerous video versions of Sagan’s speech floating around the internet, but the one above, assembled by Reid Gower, may be my favorite. Give it a watch and take a moment to be awestruck and appreciative for that blue dot we call home.