Planetary Radio • Nov 09, 2022

Ann Druyan wishes you a happy Sagan Day

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Ann Druyan

Executive Producer of Cosmos: Possible Worlds, and author of the companion book

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Sarah Al-Ahmed

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

November 9 would have been our co-founder Carl Sagan’s 88th birthday. His professional and life partner, Ann Druyan, returns with a love story — the love between two people that encompassed the Cosmos and had to be shared. Sarah Al-Ahmed will tell us about two missions to Venus. Sarah, too, was inspired by Dr. Sagan. The theme continues with Planetary Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts in this week’s What’s Up segment.

Carl Sagan with Viking lander model
Carl Sagan with Viking lander model Carl Sagan stands in front of a Viking lander model in Death Valley, California.Image: NASA/JPL

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Carl Sagan's Message to Mars In 1996, Carl Sagan recorded this audio for future astronauts who will one day walk on Mars. In 2008, Sagan's greeting to future explorers made it to the surface of Mars thanks to The Planetary Society's “Visions of Mars” mini-DVD, which is attached to the Phoenix lander. This audio of Sagan is actually on Mars, so you will see its home when whenever you look up at the bright, orange light that is the Red Planet in the night sky.

Carl Sagan at Planetfest '89
Carl Sagan at Planetfest '89 Carl Sagan speaks at Planetfest '89, an event hosted by The Planetary Society in celebration of Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune.Image: The Planetary Society
Ann Druyan
Ann Druyan Ann Druyan (right) speaks about NASA's Voyager missions at a 2011 event at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.Image: NASA/Carla Cioffi

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Trivia Contest

This Week’s Question:

Who are the two Viking landing sites on Mars named after?

This Week’s Prize:

A signed CD copy of The Moons Symphony, composed by Amanda Lee Falkenberg and available from Signum Classics.

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, November 16 at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Which former JPL director or directors have won the United States National Medal of Science?


The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the October 26, 2022 space trivia contest:

Where in the solar system, but not on Earth, is a feature named Sarah?


There is a nearly 20 kilometer-wide (12 mile-wide) crater on Venus named Sarah. Also, a rock discovered by Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity that does not resemble Sarah Al-Ahmed.

Conducting the Moons Symphony
Conducting the Moons Symphony Marin Alsop conducting The Moons Symphony as composer Amanda Lee Falkenberg and others watch from behind her at LSO St. Luke's.Image: Mat Kaplan / The Planetary Society


Mat Kaplan: Happy Sagan Day. Stick around for a love story that spanned the Cosmos this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure, across our Solar System and beyond. November 9 would've been Carl Sagan's 88th birthday. The co-founder of Planetary Society left us far too early at just 62, but his legacy can be found across most of science and in how the wonder and truth of science is communicated to those of us who don't do it for a living. Join us today for that love story between two people that encompass the Cosmos. Carl's professional and life partner, Ann Druyan, will also tell us why Carl loved space exploration and why he was part of starting our organization. You'll hear about Carl across all our segments today, including What's up? with Bruce Betts, who has a new space trivia contest for us. And we're moments away from checking in with Sarah Al-Ahmed, who will share the inspiration she received from Dr. Sagan. What are your favorite space, accomplishments, events and images from 2022? Now's your chance to vote for some. Our ballot is at You'll find seven different categories including Best JWST Image and Best Planetary Society accomplishment. Not that I want to tip the scales a bit, perish the thought, but I'm represented in two of the nominations in that category. Again, that's You've got till November 30. This competition also leads the November four edition of the Downlink, our free weekly newsletter. Below it is the story of asteroid 2022 AP7. That is not repeat, not going to hit Earth. At least not for a very, very long time. It's still a pretty interesting near Earth asteroid though. Researchers may have found the shore of an ancient ocean on the red planet. What really impresses me about this newly analyzed data is that it came from the Mars Global surveyor, the orbiter that stopped talking to us in 2006. It's always great to see new science coming from a mission that ended long ago. There's more at Sarah Al-Ahmed has a few weeks left as The Planetary Society's digital community manager, after which she's moving on to some other job that I seem to have forgotten. Oh, yeah, she'll be the host of this show. Sarah, welcome again. You have not heard it yet, but I hope that you will listen to What's up? today because you'll hear me talk about the wonderful, wonderful comments we have gotten from people, mostly who entered the contest two weeks ago, which is when, of course, I introduced you to the Planetary Radio audience, though they had already heard you. And it's just lovely what people have to say about you and about me as well. Stay tuned.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's wonderful to hear. I've been getting just such a flood of welcoming emails and messages. It's really heartwarming.

Mat Kaplan: I'm not a bit surprised. Sadly, we'll have to go from the heartwarming to the heart rendering, at least to a degree. Because we have learned in the last few days that a wonderful mission to Venus is going to be delayed. Delayed quite a bit. Can you tell us about what's happening with Veritas?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's true. We got a recent update on NASA's Veritas mission to Venus. It's going to be delayed by about three years, which I believe means that it's still hypothetically launching in 2031. But the weird thing about this is that it's not even really an issue with the Veritas mission. This is actually the result of what's going on with the Psyche mission, which is aiming at an asteroid of that same namesake, Psyche. It's a metallic asteroid. We want to know all about it, but there have been some issues with the mission, particularly with staffing, budget and some miscommunication behind the scenes. In order to make sure that both Psyche and Veritas go off well, it looks like they're going to have to delay Veritas for three years in order to facilitate that.

Mat Kaplan: And of course, we had already heard that Psyche would be delayed because of these problems. They missed their launch window. As we always say, and we always hear from people around NASA, "Better to get it right than to get it done early." At the same time, we have this great article just published by our colleague Andrew Jones, who has become our go-to person for everything that's happening with the Chinese Space program about another, at least potential mission to Venus. You've read this article, right?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, yeah. This is a really cool one. It's about the VOICE mission. That stands for the Volcano Imaging and Climate Explorer mission. It's a proposed Venus Orbiter. There are so many different missions that are aiming at Venus right now. But if this one goes well with all of the other proposed missions, we could learn a lot about Venus that we didn't know before. At this point, it's still just a proposal. It was put together by a team that's competing for funding from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. And presented by Dong Xiaolong at the Euro Planet Science Congress, which was held just this past September in Spain. What's cool about this mission is that it wants to study both the atmosphere of the planet and its surface and how the two interact with each other. They want to look at the different chemical processes going on in the atmosphere of Venus, but also have a particular eye for habitability in the atmosphere. they want to look into whether or not there are say places where molecules like Phosphine are actually existing in the atmosphere, which is really cool. I know in recent months you had Jane Greaves on to talk about potential detections of phosphine in Venus. We definitely want to know more about that. But then also looking at the surface of the planet. They want to image a lot of the surface, but look for hot spots and particularly active volcanoes. This could tell us a lot about the evolution of Venus over time or help us understand what's going on with those potential phosphine detections.

Mat Kaplan: I'm looking for those penguins flying around up in the high atmosphere of Venus, of course. Hey, you can find the article by Andrew Jones at It's called VOICE, Will This Chinese Candidate Mission to Venus Fly? Just one of the things, Sarah, again, you have not heard my conversation with Andrew Ying yet. It is a celebration to some degree, a large degree of Sagan Day. What would've been the 88th birthday? I think I figured out I say it early in the interview of our co-founder, Carl Sagan. Did he mean a lot to you as you came up in this business?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: So much. And it's funny because it started back before I even have memories. My parents, my mother and father were really deeply into Cosmos and started showing that to me when I was just a tiny child. And that, I'm sure in ways that I'm not even aware of, began my love of space and science and the planets. And then, later I grew up. And just Carl Sagan's work has inspired me and so many other people. And here I am all these years later, a science communicator trying to follow his path and working at The Planetary Society, the organization that he co-founded. It's an absolute dream. And I'd like to think that Carl would be very proud of this organization and all of our members and supporters for loving space as much as he did.

Mat Kaplan: Well said. I couldn't agree more. Sarah, thank you so much.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Thanks, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: You can still leave a message welcoming Sarah and, or saying goodbye to me using our toll-free number, 844 PlanRad. Stay with us through this short break, followed by a wonderful conversation with author, Cosmos Studio CEO and the producer, writer and director of Cosmos Possible Worlds. Carl Sagan's partner, Ann Druyan is next.

George Takei: Hello, I'm George Takei. And as you know, I'm very proud of my association with Star Trek. Star Trek was a show that looked to the future with optimism boldly going where no one had gone before. I want you to know about a very special organization called The Planetary Society. They are working to make the future that Star Trek represents a reality. When you become a member of The Planetary Society, you join their mission to increase discoveries in our Solar System. To elevate the search for life outside our planet and decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid. Co-founded by Carl Sagan and led today by CEO, Bill Nye, The Planetary Society exists for those who believe in space exploration to take action together. Join The Planetary Society and boldly go together to build our future.

Mat Kaplan: Ann Druyan, welcome back to Planetary Radio. There were people that I knew I wanted to have final, I hope not truly final, but final conversations with as the host of this show. You rose to the top of that list. Thank you for joining us once again.

Ann Druyan: Mat, I am really happy to be celebrating Carl's birthday with you today, but a little misty. Not sad, but wistful about the idea that this will be the last of our conversations under these auspices exactly. I want to talk about why you are my ideal interviewer.

Mat Kaplan: Oh my gosh.

Ann Druyan: No, you have to permit me this.

Mat Kaplan: Can I leave for a minute? And you can go on.

Ann Druyan: I know, you can leave, but I want to say to your listeners that it's very rare to have a conversation with someone who is so knowledgeable, always knows everything significant about the person that you're interviewing. So kind, so patient, such a great listener, which is a very important qualification for any interviewer. But also, someone who is so articulate and has so many important things to say. It's an honor to be with you again, I just want to thank you for all the hours of great conversation that we've shared.

Mat Kaplan: I am rarely speechless and I'm not now, but I'm as close as I get. Thank you, Ann. Truly, talking about me being articulate and caring about the stuff I talk about. I mean, my gosh, it could not come from a source that has better qualifications in either of those areas. Thank you so much. Listen, you already said joining us on Carl Sagan's birthday because the show will be published on November 9th. There are a lot of people out there who celebrate this day as Sagan Day. I'll add my vote. Happy Sagan Day, Ann.

Ann Druyan: Happy Sagan Day.

Mat Kaplan: How do you feel about this very unofficial holiday?

Ann Druyan: Well, I don't want to sound gushy, but I think I'm celebrating Carl's existence and Carl's birth every single day of the year. With every heartbeat, ever since June 1, 1977 when we first expressed our feelings for each other, I think I have been celebrating just the greatness of Carl. And of course, your listeners are familiar with his scientific achievements and his enormous contribution to the public outreach, to spreading the values, the methodology, the great stories that science has to tell to the widest possible global audience. Being a pioneer in so many different fields of science, being the first person to know the real temperature of Venus.

Mat Kaplan: Yes, yes.

Ann Druyan: To understand that it was the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. His PhD thesis as a very young man. His discoveries about Titan and you wrote. But I could go on and on and on. But what always is foremost in my mind is the kind of father he was, the kind of husband he was, the kind of friend he was, the kind of citizen was. That is so much a part of who Carl was, especially at a moment of darkness in our public discourse, in the way we treat each other. I think of Carl as being one of the few people of the recent past who really could have brought so many of us to our senses with his impeccable reasoning and he's goodwill. I'm celebrating Carl today and I will be celebrating him tomorrow and for the rest of my life.

Mat Kaplan: Here, here and call out. I mean, there could be 50 or 100 other examples, but that subject of his PhD thesis. Not only the discovery of the temperature of Venus, molten lead level, but why. And the relevance of that, that it has for humanity here. It had that relevance when he was with us. It is sadly far more relevant today. That's one example. But I'm also thinking of how you have recently given permission to Steven Pinker and Harvey Silverglate and Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine, to print a transcript of a speech that Carl delivered to a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union in the mid-'80s. People Google Skeptical Inquirer that can probably pull this up and we'll put a link on the show page. It made clear that he believed that the scientific method could be applied to much more than research in the various scientific disciplines. That it has something within it, within its principle that it is an effective approach to life itself, to civilization I think

Ann Druyan: I couldn't agree more, and I did with Carl. In fact, I feel that we came to that conclusion together. And it was this idea that the error correcting mechanism of the scientific method. No arguments from authority, not just because I say so. All of the different elements of that baloney detection kit, that science is, that means for knowing when you're being lied to. It's interesting to me that I came of age in a time where people were very extremely gullible about what the government said in the 1950s. Very easily manipulated. And one of the great breakthroughs of the 1960s was a skepticism, a healthy skepticism about what people in positions of authority were telling you. But skepticism alone is not enough. You need that set of tools that are to a large measure, the rules of evidence in a courtroom. And very much the basis, the inspiration for the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. And that is those error correcting mechanisms that enable you to distinguish between what do you want to believe is true and what is real. Not absolute truths, no absolute truths, but the ability to discern nonsense from reality. And it's a shame that along with that healthy skepticism, so many of us have not adopted that means for knowing when you're being manipulated, when your buttons are being pushed. And that was the inspiration for the talk you referred to, which was the idea that we have these tools. Carl in The Demon-haunted World wrote of his foreboding of the future. And I see it on Instagram almost every day. It makes the rounds. It sounds like prophecy. In fact, it sounds more like prophecy than a lot of the stuff in the Bible. Where he's saying, "I have this foreboding of a society, of an America where people don't make things anymore. And they're up for grabs for any charlatan to be manipulated as the standards for evidence and for what's real decline." And I don't think that was just the usual cry of the old lamenting, that goes way back probably to Sumeria, to Sumer. The idea of, "People memorize things now. They don't memorize things anymore," as Plato said. "That they write things down. It's disgraceful." Well, that is the habit of people when they get older, but this is different because we're all seeing manifestations of the worst kinds of prejudice and stupidity and gullibility for things that are demonstrably untrue and it's in danger. And in all of my 73 years, I have never felt it so keenly as I do right now. That's what Carl was worried about.

Mat Kaplan: Sadly, you have a lot of company in that sense of the challenges that we face in these times. And makes me, as you said, wish that Carl was still with us to help battle this.

Ann Druyan: Still with us.

Mat Kaplan: And you certainly have done your part. And I think you can hear it throughout the continuation of Cosmos and other work that you have done. Thank you for that.

Ann Druyan: Thank you. That's a great compliment.

Mat Kaplan: Why was Carl so passionate about space exploration and the search for life across the Cosmos?

Ann Druyan: Because he had this bottomless curiosity about nature. He was in awe of nature as I think we all should be. And he wanted to love nature the way that science does. Not maintaining his cherished misperceptions, but instead, looking at nature as clearly and as cold-eyed as he possibly could to see its true wonder. And he believed that it was his great good fortune to be born at a moment when his childish dreams in the 1940s could actually be exceeded by the reality of his later life. That he could be a participant on an interstellar mission. And these little points in the sky, the planets and their moons became places in his lifetime. I'm so proud of you're such a healthy human being, and he followed his bliss. And some people follow their bliss, but they can't be happy in the exploration of that bliss. They want to acquire something else that may be unattainable. Carl, he didn't have that problem. He knew how lucky he was. He carried on all of his many careers with this kind of joy, this energy. That when you think about it, he was running six different careers simultaneously and not at the expense of his personal life. That was because he didn't have these barriers between work and life and happiness. For him, they were seamlessly all of a piece. And that was one of the great joys of living with him.

Mat Kaplan: It should have been obvious, but I never before, until you've said this now, drew that direct line from those meticulous drawings, fanciful futuristic drawings he made as a kid on lined paper in his binder. To his participation in things like an interstellar mission, the Voyager mission that continues today.

Ann Druyan: That was the miracle of it. To be a truly working class kid, living in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn. Never having met a scientist and dreaming about the possibility of interstellar missions and then leading that. I think it was Freud who said that, "Happiness was the fulfillment of childhood dreams." For Carl and for me, I must say, to have a life in which you have the luxury of fulfilling those dreams, which is all too rare, that was part of the joy that fueled him. He knew he was the luckiest person.

Mat Kaplan: Where did The Planetary Society fit into this vision? I mean, I assume it was part of at least one of those six different lives that he was leading.

Ann Druyan: Yes. Well, he, with Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman, had this dream in the early 1980s, that there would be a way to bring people together. Remember, this is before the internet. This is before we started living on our phones and our electronic media. He had this dream that there would be a public space interest group that would be motivated by our desire to protect this planet and to discover and to explore the other worlds. And it was always in his mind, those two impulses equally. And he believed that a civilization that was engaged in exploration and that had internalized the horrendous lessons of the first ages of exploration on planet earth, a civilization that was engaged in thoughtful, conscious exploration would remain vital. And would always have new questions to chew on and to wonder about, and that would be a very healthy thing. He also believed that exploration was a great use of testosterone and a way to divert testosterone from armed conflict. For a way for nations of the world to join together in an endeavor that could equally absorb the dreams, the talents, the strengths of all of us. He felt that it was the best possible use of these energies and these gifts that we as humans have.

Mat Kaplan: I told you a few days ago that my greatest professional regret is that I never had the opportunity to interview Carl. I was only in a room with him once as a scruffy college reporter. And didn't come up to the level of the major networks that were demanding his time, rightfully so. I will say, the many conversations that I've had with you, the fact that I served the organization that he co-founded, those have been pretty good compensation. I still regret that I never had that opportunity.

Ann Druyan: Yeah, yeah. I'm so sorry you guys didn't meet. I have a very strong conviction that he would've been as fond of you as I am. And I'm just sorry it didn't happen because he just had that, he lit up every room. It was amazing. And it wasn't egoism. That was the interesting thing. He could take criticism. He loved criticism. In fact, the greatest laughs that we ever shared or I ever saw him share with others were at his own expense. He had a kind of magnanimity. He was criticized. He took a tremendous amount of criticism. Shamefully, he took a lot of criticism from his own community, the scientific community. Why? Not because he wasn't a more than first rate scientist, but because he felt that a connection between democracy and science. And he believed that the scientific community would only be as strong as the public embrace and understanding and appreciation for science. And so, unfortunately at that time, this was a long-standing issue of science. And that was that scientists, many scientists, not all, but many scientists, wanted science to be a closed priesthood, a secret society that spoke in a jargon that no one else could understand. And they derived their sense of importance from the idea that they were the only ones who knew this stuff. The other problem for them was that if they were ever to tell someone they were a scientist, the first followup question would be, "Do you know Carl Sagan?" And that must have really rankled them because there were many who were very unkind to Carl. And if they could have read his heart and understood his motivation, they would've been disarmed.

Mat Kaplan: I think all they had to do was listen a little more carefully. I mean, maybe listen to a Johnny Carson show now and then. Although of course, some of them probably would've been just made envious by that. We've come so far. And I often credit Carl for initiating this move towards scientists not just being discouraged from reaching out to, after all the people who mostly pay for this research, but actually actively being encouraged to share what they learn. I've seen so much progress. I think The Planetary Society itself benefits from that. But I was surprised not long ago to hear from a faculty member who was told by somebody or some senior person, a dean or whatever, that really, she should put aside that science communication stuff. It wasn't going to help her get tenure.

Ann Druyan: Okay. It's still with us.

Mat Kaplan: Sadly, yes. And I was very disappointed to hear that. I hope the progress continues.

Ann Druyan: Especially, I mean, really, if you are a scientist and you have that knowledge. And you see how many people, a number of people on this planet who still refuse to believe that it's round. These are problems that bite us every day because that person clearly hasn't been given the gifts, the strength, the weapons against being deceiving yourself. The point is that what we need is in this society, which Carl said probably 1,000 publicly during this lifetime, a society dependent on science and high technology in which so few of us understand. For most of us, it's such a matter of such mystification. How? We're communicating with each other at the speed of light. And we're doing that with people all over the planet. That is something, that is a great power, that should be demystified. That every one of us should have some vague working understanding of what those electrons are doing. And yet, as long as it's a priesthood with a set of secret formula that most of us don't understand, the danger to our society is very great.

Mat Kaplan: The other example I love, and the boss here, Bill Nye, loves to use this one. My phone, if I ask, it knows exactly where I am, wherever I am on the face of earth. You know why? Science, technology and a big helping of Einstein. Relativity.

Ann Druyan: Yes.Yes. There's some Einstein, there's some Arthur Clark in there. In fact, that would be a wonderful... I'd love to do a sequence of Cosmos in which all of the thinking, the discoveries, the minds. You'd have Michael Faraday, you would have James Clerk Maxwell. Think of all of the people who contributed to this great power that virtually all of us have. The entire contents of the libraries of the whole world in our phone. It's wonder... And there's no excuse actually for the amount of ignorance that afflicts us.

Mat Kaplan: I want to see that episode. I'll look forward to it. Did you remember there was an old TV show called Connections?

Ann Druyan: Of, very well. Sure.

Mat Kaplan: I think it was James Burke. And he did exactly this. I mean, I was blown away. I mean, here I am, supposedly somebody who's fairly science and tech savvy. And he did a whole show on elevators and how they came to be.

Ann Druyan: I remember that.

Mat Kaplan: And all the different science that goes into it. And it just blows me away. I look forward to seeing that as an episode of Cosmos.

Ann Druyan: It's true. It's time for a revival of that. What I loved about it was topic drift. What I loved about it was the meandering. You didn't know where it was going. And that pretty much defines all of my conversations with everyone is topic drift. And he raised it an art form.

Mat Kaplan: He sure did. Look it up, folks. I'm sure it's available out there someplace. It is just marvelous.

Ann Druyan: Oh, it's on YouTube, I bet.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. We touched back into, got back into this era of misinformation, disinformation. How much we could use Carl around today. But it's certainly not all bad. So much of what we have learned since his death has confirmed or even vindicated his work, his beliefs. To mention just one, it's already come up. We may be, who knows, only a few years away from discovering life elsewhere, whether it's Mars or Europa or some distant exoplanet. Wouldn't he be just thrilled by all of this?

Ann Druyan: Oh my God. I wish, there's so much I wish I could tell him. Now that you mention it, I'd also like to say a word about Frank Drake.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, please. Please do.

Ann Druyan: What a great human being he was. He was also not only a person with just such a broad spectrum of achievements, but he was also so deeply kind and thoughtful and generous. And Frank Carl, Philip Morrison, I think of Jessup Carconi, I think of only maybe six people in the late 1950s, early 1960s who were scientists who had the guts to pursue the question of the existence of life elsewhere and the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. It was science career suicide at that time. It was considered disreputable to even pose those questions, let alone to research them and to try to figure out ways to connect possible other civilizations and other life. We owe them so much. The field of study of astrobiology, which is burgeoning and vibrant. These are now scientific fields that Carl and Frank and a few others bravely opened up for the rest of us. And so, I'd just like to celebrate Frank's life because he was such a great force for good in so many different ways.

Mat Kaplan: And such a gentle soul and a wonderful person to talk to.

Ann Druyan: Great friend, wonderful person, humble. The humility of the truly great is what impresses me the most, especially at a moment in our history where people who have no humility, no thoughtfulness, no concern for anyone else but themselves, have dominated our national conversation in such a destructive way.

Mat Kaplan: Must be an inverse relationship there between their level of humility and their level of power that they have gained in some societies. I go back though to how excited Carl, I assume he would be.

Ann Druyan: Yes. Sorry.

Mat Kaplan: By some of the discoveries being made and by what maybe just around the corner, particularly in the search for life.

Ann Druyan: Well, I have to admit that when Carl was dying, I held his face in my hands. And I looked so deeply into his eyes. And I felt the pain, which I've felt ever since that he would never know the answer to so many of the questions that motivated him and empowered him to work so hard. And yes, I mean, do I wish that he could see the pictures from the web telescope and sail the seas of Titan and do so many things that we have yet to do but will be doing in the near future and so many things that we have now accomplished? Yeah, it is painful to think of all the things that he never got to see. Especially, I must say our children and their beautiful growth and their families. There's a lot of pathos to go around. But I think he would've been the first to say that that slice of time that he had was miraculously perfect for the things he cared about most. I mean, he wouldn't have complained because as I said earlier, he got to fulfill and exceed so many of those dreams.

Mat Kaplan: Thank goodness, because I mean, he was there. And in fact, helped to generate what we now call this golden age of exploration. Another golden age.

Ann Druyan: He did. And his scientific priorities are essentially topic A of not only the space sciences, but the environmental sciences and so much else. He was in the forefront of breaking down. When he was coming of age, science and the different fields of science were totally siloed. The geologists never spoke to the biologists. There was no journal for them to join forces and test ideas. There was no academic department on earth where they could work together. Well, of course, the space age put an end to that because you're not going to be going and exploring other worlds without a biologist and a geologist and many other people in different scientific disciplines. And Carl's life coincided with that great reintegration of the scientific disciplines and the opportunity. And of course, he was brilliant at that because his curiosity was not confined to one scientific field.

Mat Kaplan: And most of the scientists that I talk to, they may have started as biologists or geologists, but then you can talk to them about those other fields because they're planetary scientists. And they have to be do this work. And it was Carl who was one of those. I mean, I can also point to people like Bruce Murray, who saw that this was absolutely had to be the way to go.

Ann Druyan: Yeah. And remember that one of Carl's two greatest mentors, or three greatest mentors was Gerard Kuiper, who was the first planetary scientist. There was no such thing before Kuiper. And so, Carl was his grad student and also Harold Urey's grad student. Harold Urey being one of the real architects of our going to the moon, of the US Space program generally.

Mat Kaplan: And astrobiology as well, I think. Right? Yeah.

Ann Druyan: And astro, absolutely. Absolutely.

Mat Kaplan: By the way, I was in the Kuiper building at the University of Arizona not long ago. I could propose that you have in part devoted your life to keeping Carl's work, his ideas alive in the world. But it seems clear to me that it's really your and Carl's work and ideas. And I marvel at the level of professional as well as personal partnership that the two of you achieved. It's a rare thing.

Ann Druyan: It was so much fun. It was so much fun. I mean, yeah, it was a rare thing. And the idea that our bliss, our joy together was equally, everything we did together. We were inseparable for 19 years until his death. We worked seven days a week. But it was not a grind at all. It was a feast. It was a feast. It was a party because I did not have really a scientific background at all. I have been derailed from my interest in science through the kind of humiliation that many girls of my age experienced in their youth, many women. Not only did we have this fun of writing together and thinking together, he always likened it to two sea mammals that could travel at high speeds underwater. And make these incredible right turns and left turns seemingly without having to signal to each other because we were so in tune. But it was also a great tutorial. I could ask a person who I think was probably the greatest teacher of the 20th century. I could ask him a question of any hour of the day or night. And receive the most inspired crystalline answer about science or mathematics that was so embracing, so helpful and so inspiring. We asked each other to marry each other virtually every day of our lives together. And we couldn't believe that, because we had both spent a life longing for someone who could make us feel the way the other did. And part of us doubted whether or not is this just a lie that songs and Hollywood movies tell? Is that ever possible to stay in love forever, to find that person who is so completely completes you? And we never got over the joy of that and could never get over the idea. We could stay up as late as we wanted for those 19 years, and no one could stop us. And I mean, I have to smile every time. I think of Carl constantly. And every time I think I smile because it was so much fun.

Mat Kaplan: I'm thinking all still of that metaphor you used of those marine mammals so in step with each other and how you've added to your pod. I only have personal experience with one of those additions, your daughter, who now has written that terrific book, of course, we featured on the show. But it looks like you've passed it along.

Ann Druyan: I'm very proud of our kids, especially Nick Sagan, Carl and Linda Sagan's son, but also mine, who is a professor at Ithaca College, teaching screenwriting and number of things. Much beloved and adored by his students. And I think of Sasha, who you mentioned, who wrote that wonderful book, For Small Creatures Such as We. Which is a breathtaking read for me to know that her memoir of growing up with Carl and with me so inspired her and filled her with such love. And that she is such a gifted writer with such original insights. Wow, my head's exploding. And Sam Sagan, our youngest, who wrote the final episode of Bill Nye's series, the End is Nye. And who was a very gifted contributor to this second, and third seasons of Cosmos. And who's now doing some great work. And the biggest thing about it, yes, they are very successful human beings who have manifested their gifts and who've made great relationships in their lives. But I guess there's no one on earth I would rather hang out with than one of them. Just to talk, just to think together. And so, it is an extension of that happiness that Carl and I shared.

Mat Kaplan: What a wonderful little tribute. And I certainly understand your pride. I feel a lot of that within my own daughters. Before I let you go, could you say something about the rational hope for humanity that I think you shared with Carl? And I hope still share.

Ann Druyan: I hope. Yeah. Let's be honest, This is a very dark time. Do I think that we will completely rid ourselves of our sickness as a civilization and the sicknesses that afflict us anytime soon? No. I think that they are very much with us and that it's a constant struggle to keep them from overcoming the good that I see in people everywhere on earth. It's a constant struggle. But I have a lot of hope. For one thing, the fact that we can all communicate with each other. That there is a coalescing global community of concern for our environment, for our society it means a lot to me. I feel it's much harder to centralize and to control the means of expression and the means of communication. But what we're seeing, what I believe we're seeing with the wicked invasion of Ukraine, with the resurgence of antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, of racism, misogyny, and homophobia and all of the sicknesses, the blindness that have been with us. Those have been with us, I would say at least since the invention of agriculture, this othering, this persecution of the out group, this need to derive your self-esteem from your imagined superiority to others. These are ancient problems. But we're now beginning to systematize and to be able to gate the antidotes to those illnesses in far more reaching ways. And so, I think what is called for here is that planetary perspective, is the pale blue dot. I would love to see everyone internalize the meaning of that image that Carl was responsible for Voyager 1, taking from out by Neptune, above the plane of the galaxy. To see that one pixel earth is to give the lie to every fundamentalist, every supremacist, every environmental destroyer, every nationalist, every sickness that we are dealing with. And that's the focus that we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is a single pixel from virtually not even out of our neighborhood. That's our true circumstances. We're living on a pale blue dot, and we better get right with one another. And as Carl wrote so beautifully, to learn to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known. If the space program, if this age of space exploration has given us any gifts. It's that degree of self-awareness. And I have hope that people will stop compartmentalizing science and take what it is saying about the continuity of life going back 4 billion years. The unity of that life, the preciousness of it, the tininess of our world. And that will be the spiritual awakening that will prevent us from destroying our civilization and from everything that's meaningful to us.

Mat Kaplan: Ann, if anybody has wondered why I can gush a bit about how pleased I am whenever you are on this program, I hope that over the last few minutes they have had ample proof of why it is always a pleasure, has always been a pleasure to welcome you to Planetary Radio over two decades now. I hope we have many more reasons to talk as I take on new responsibilities at The Planetary Society and put this show in the very capable hands of my colleague, Sarah Al-Ahmed, who I think you are also going to enjoy talking to. And boy, do I know that she's going to love talking with you. I'll only mention one other thing. You've reminded me for years now, I've been toying with this thought. Should I get that tattoo that I have in mind? After this conversation I can't think of a better way to celebrate completing my 20 years as host than getting, it won't be much, a tiny blue dot. Maybe right about here on my arm. That's it, just a little blue dot.

Ann Druyan: That's it. That's it. Hey, Mat, congratulations on 20 years of excellence, of setting a great standard of communication. I cherish our times together. I'm really looking forward to more. Can't wait to meet Sarah. And happy birthday, Carl.

Mat Kaplan: Happy birthday, Carl. And thank you very much, Ann, for everything. I look forward to our next conversation.

Ann Druyan: Me too.

Mat Kaplan: It's time again for What's up? on Planetary Radio. Here's the chief scientist of The Planetary Society, that's Bruce Betts. And I guess you couldn't catch the eclipse last night. For me, it was a choice. For you, I guess you had no option.

Bruce Betts: The weather chose. I mean, I could have driven up a mountain in the clouds and rain, but I chose not to. You know, the Pasadena, LA area, we get so much rain that it was bound to happen. Ooh, sarcasm. But it was raining last night, that's for sure.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I guess it's headed down this way now. I have something to open with. Perhaps you could call it a complaint. From Tom McRain.

Bruce Betts: Uh-oh.

Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah, Tom. In Fairbanks, Alaska. "Why does Bruce often say the moon is hanging out with the planets?" His quotation marks, not mine. "At least here in Alaska, it doesn't stay in one place very long." I will preface this by saying, Tom, I was in Fairbanks in the winter. You would never know there was a moon because it's overcast every night that. That's what everybody told me up there. And then I went back in the summer, not quite as far north as Fairbanks. There's no moon in the summer either, so I don't know how you know you're talking about, Tom.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. Clouds don't count Tom. I mean that... Yeah. Okay. Well, it's my wacky language and just indicate. The moon's a partier. I mean it moves on, but for a little bit it hangs out with a given planet. And then it moves on because it's that kind of partier.

Mat Kaplan: That's nice. And no, wait. I have this one other I want to read. There were so many lovely comments from just people writing us notes and people adding messages to their contest entries this week about my departure, but also about Sarah. Because it was two weeks ago when you proposed this contest that we introduced Sarah to the audience. At least introduced her as the next host. I got this nice note from Torsten in Germany, Torsten Zimmer. "Starting next year, you, Mat, can enjoy episodes of Planetary Radio without having to do the work. And as someone who has done exactly that as a listener for many years, I can assure you, it's a lot of fun."

Bruce Betts: Good point. Torsten.

Mat Kaplan: Looking forward to it. Now you can tell us about the night sky and then we'll talk more about Sarah.

Bruce Betts: But not our Sarah, right?

Mat Kaplan: No, we'll indirectly.

Bruce Betts: A little bit inside of. Okay. In the early evening we still, we've got Jupiter suit, really bright Jupiter up in the east, south east. And Saturn's really not that close. It's not really hanging out with Jupiter. It's considerably over towards the west and looking yellowish. And then we've got Mars coming up in the mid-evening now. It's coming up earlier and earlier and getting brighter and brighter as it moves towards opposition, closest or the opposite side of the earth from the sun. And it's getting closer to its closest point in its orbit for this 26 month period to Earth's orbit. And it's almost as bright as Jupiter right now, looking reddish. Very cool. Mid-evening, check that out in the east. By the way, if you're looking at Jupiter and Saturn and kind of in between them down low, usually that part of the sky, there are no bright stars except for [inaudible 00:54:16]. I'm sorry, I don't... Is usually you just say, look over in the south, at least from the Northern hemisphere at that time. And that's all you see that's bright. But it's actually put to shame by Jupiter and Saturn right now. All right. We've covered eclipses gone by. Let's move on to this week in space history, all sorts of stuff. This week, I had to pick and choose. I picked Apollo 12 launched, taking the second set of humans to the moon. That was in 1969. And then in 1971, Mariner 9 became the first orbiter at Mars.

Mat Kaplan: The year I graduated from high school.

Bruce Betts: They could have done it sooner, but they were waiting for you. They didn't expect you to be held back. I did. Oh, come on, Bruce. Stop it. Let's move on to random [inaudible 00:55:15]. I love it. You've heard of Carl Sagan, right?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. He was a scientist, used to go on the Carson Show.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. As you also may have heard, the Carl Sagan Memorial Station is the Pathfinder lander on Mars with the first Rover, Sojourner. But also, Mat did you know, and you probably did, that in Star Trek Enterprise, they referenced a plaque put on the surface by the Mars Historical Preservation Society. I was surprised to find this and realized the quote they put on the plaque. Do you know what that's from?

Mat Kaplan: No, I don't remember that, but I do remember I saw the episode.

Bruce Betts: "Whatever the reason you're on Mars, I'm glad you're there and I wish I was with you."

Mat Kaplan: Oh, yes.

Bruce Betts: Do you recognize that?

Mat Kaplan: That's from us, right? Isn't that from our messages?

Bruce Betts: It is indeed. It's from Visions of Mars, which is the first library on Mars, the science fiction and science writings. But also had greetings from Carl Sagan as well as Arthur C. Clark and Lou Friedman. It's Carl's greeting. And that landed on Mars in 2007, 2008 with the Phoenix Lander. And you may ask, "Well, Carl passed away long before then." It's because it first flew on the Mars '96 Russian mission, which had a rocket failure, as they do. And so, we updated things for Phoenix, but re-flew his greeting. That's where they pulled that from.

Mat Kaplan: I think it was my favorite moment in Star Trek Enterprise. I am willing to bet that our good friend ,André Bormanis, who was one of the producers of Enterprise, might have had a hand in creating that.

Bruce Betts: That may explain it. I was just so surprised that that's where they pulled it from. They don't reference it. Let us move on to the trivia question where we asked you, because of our incoming host, where in the Solar System is there a feature named Sarah? How'd we do, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: Nice responses. I will start with the one from Mel Powell in California, who obviously did his research. You can't search Solar System and Sarah on the web without finding five awesome scientists who've also been Planetary Radio guests. You ready? Sarah Al-Ahmed, Sarah Hörst, Sarah Scoles, Sara Seager. No H on the end of that one. And Sarah Stewart Johnson.

Bruce Betts: Wow. That would've been a cool question, but I didn't think of that.

Mat Kaplan: Jerry Robinett in Ohio and a lot of other people nominated asteroid 533, Sarah. It's in the main belt, apparently named for Asteroid Institute researcher, Sarah Greenstreet. But he adds, "It's really a tribute to the terrific job Sarah Al-Ahmed is going to do as host of Planetary Radio by time traveling aliens." Apparently they came up with that. The only problem is that that Sarah doesn't have an H on the end. We're going to be sticklers here. John Guyton in Australia, Ed Lupin in California and a few others found a rock discovered by Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, given the name Sarah. I'm not sure that you, Bruce, would count a single rock as a feature.

Bruce Betts: Did it look like Sarah? If it did, I would totally count it.

Mat Kaplan: The face on Mars.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. I'd be flexible. I think I just asked whether, but I said a feature so I probably wouldn't go with the rock. Asteroid, I'd say you could argue. And in the radio version, I don't believe I mentioned the H.

Mat Kaplan: Well, a number of people did come up with the one that I believe you were looking for, including our poet laureate, Dave Fairchild in Kansas. Here it is. "Venus Crater's name for women says the IAU. That is where we have to go for Sarah's rendezvous, named in 1994. It's 20 clicks in size. Visiting this crater now would certainly be unwise."

Bruce Betts: Yeah. Yeah. I don't think we should schedule a field trip or travel. Well, yes, indeed. That's what was on my mind was the Venus crater roughly 20 kilometers in diameter named Sarah.

Mat Kaplan: Well, let's congratulate John Lindecker out of Colorado. He is, now anyway, a three time winner. His last win was nearly three years ago. His first win was in 2014. John it pays [inaudible 00:59:50].

Bruce Betts: Your statistics are amazing.

Mat Kaplan: Isn't that great? I think that's accurate. He sure enough said it's a crater on Venus. John, we're going to send you that signed copy of Brian Keating's newest book, Into the Impossible, Lessons from Laureates. That is Nobel laureates. To Stoke Curiosity, Spur Collaboration, and Ignite Imagination in your Life and Career. Congratulations again. I only got one more thing. It's another poem from Gene Lewin in Washington. Little bit longer than we would normally read. "SAR images of Venus reflect a surface we can't see, mapping surface character when tied with altimetry. A geologically young surface, still craters dot the land. One bears the name of Sarah in Kawan Fuctus she was scanned. And just revealed a Sarah, we all welcome to the air, hosting Planetary Radio, filling Mat's iconic chair. An astrophysicist from Berkeley. Her skills she'll now employ, enlightening the listeners and bringing weekly joy."

Bruce Betts: Oh, so true. I look forward to the joy.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you all. Let's do this again.

Bruce Betts: We mentioned the Pathfinders site named the Carl Sega Memorial Station. What have the two Viking Lander sites been named? Who are each of those named after? Go to contest.

Mat Kaplan: You know how this goes. You've got until Wednesday, November 16 at 8:00 AM Pacific time. Why? Because that's where Bruce and I live, to get us this one. Our winner this week, because I have a few extra copies, is going to get the beautiful recording of the Moons Symphony composed by Amanda Lee Falkenberg. This is, you remember, right, folks? It's that symphony that Amanda has created with a little London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices. The orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop, who has signed this CD. You will get a signed copy. Inside is the cute little booklet with notes about the moons because each of the seven movements was inspired by a different moon, an essay, a liner notes by yours truly.

Bruce Betts: I want to add in my new temporary segment, which is fun memories of things we did when recording What's up? really quick. Remember when we recorded in Caltech racketball court?

Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah. Great acoustics.

Bruce Betts: I had mentioned on the show before, Mat's funny because he wants quality for the listeners in either complete silence or some ambience. And that was just hilarious ambience. You met me at the racket ball courts and we recorded there.

Mat Kaplan: I am Radioman. Yeah, you're right. And we need to do at least one more of these on location. I mean, I moved away and that didn't help. Not that far, but we got to do one more of these on location sometime.

Bruce Betts: All right, everybody. Go out there, look up at the night sky and think about what the uniform of the superhero, Radioman, would look like. Thank you and good night.

Mat Kaplan: I hope there's a cape. There's got to be a cape, right?

Bruce Betts: There's got to be a cape. There's definitely a cape, but no one can see it.

Mat Kaplan: With a bigger RCA microphone. The silhouette of an RCA classic ribbon micro. He's Bruce Betts the chief scientist of The Planetary Society, who joins us every week here for What's up?

Bruce Betts: Radio nerd.

Mat Kaplan: By the way, it's Keating, Brian Keating. I bet Brian is also a fan of Keaton, Michael and Buster. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its members. You can celebrate the Cosmos with them by visiting Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Josh Doyle, composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. Ad astra.