YEAR: 1980 | LENGTH: 13 parts (60 minutes each)
DESCRIPTION: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a thirteen-part television series written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter, with Sagan as presenter.The series was notable for its groundbreaking use of special effects, which allowed Sagan to seemingly walk through environments that were actually models rather than full-sized sets. – source
After an introduction by Ann Druyan, including the benefits of the end of the Cold War, Carl Sagan opens the program with a description of the cosmos and a “Spaceship of the Imagination” (shaped like a dandelion seed). The ship journeys through the universe’s hundred billion galaxies, theLocal Group, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, our Solar System, and finally the planet Earth. Eratosthenes’ successful calculation of the circumference of Earth leads to a description of the ancient Library of Alexandria. Finally, the “Ages of Science” are described, before pulling back to the full span of the Cosmic Calendar.
Beginning with the separation of the fuzzy thinking and pious fraud of astrology from the careful observations of astronomy, Sagan follows the development of astronomical observation. Beginning with constellations and ceremonial calendars (such as those of the Anasazi), the story moves to the debate between Earth and Sun-centered models: Ptolemy and the geocentric worldview, Copernicus’ theory, the data-gathering of Tycho Brahe, and the achievements of Johannes Kepler (Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and the first science-fiction novel).
The episode, devoted to the planet Mars, begins with scientific and fictional speculation about the Red Planet during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ science fiction books, and Percival Lowell’s false vision of canals on Mars). It then moves to Robert Goddard’s early experiments in rocket-building, inspired by reading science fiction, and the work by Mars probes, including the Viking, searching for life on Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the terraforming and colonization of Mars and a Cosmos Update on the relevance of Mars’ environment to Earth’s and the possibility of a manned mission to Mars.