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Carl Sagan Diary Science

The Day I Met Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

I was born in 1963 and grew up on large doses of Apollo. Anything and everything that revolved around NASA, I consumed it with a hunger only a geek could produce. During the 70s my family lived in West Virginia and we would take these trips to various places in the state; Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods, Pipestem – just about anyplace where we could hike, do a bit of fishing and pitch a tent.

On one such trip we took a wrong turn and happened upon the Green Bank Radio Observatory. My head exploded. I had no clue such a facility was in my home state.

There was a tour offered so we stopped in and took a short bus tour of the facility – the guide pointing out the frolicking deer, the softball field and the radio dishes as we went.

The last stop on the tour was in a little meeting room where we watched a short film and heard a presentation. The presenter, with a very distinctive voice, introduced a brand new film titled “The Power Of 10.” After the film, he gave us a short introduction to a program called SETI. If my young kid brain wasn’t blown by then it was blown now. I had never even considered that other civilizations could be using radio. At that period in my life I was an avid ham radio nerd and knew it was possible to pick up on interstellar signals. Only in ham radio, we called such signals “noise.” Whoever that guy was on the last stop of the tour gave me a lot to ponder.

A couple years later a new TV show about space titled “Cosmos” was announced and I was thrilled! Like the geek that I was, I actually had a notebook so I could take notes as the show went along. As the narration started I instantly knew the voice. Lo’ and behold, here was that same guy from Green Bank now on television telling us how Earth was the shore of the cosmic ocean.

So, I met Carl Sagan before he was “Carl Sagan.” I remember at the presentation he was enthusiastic and actually engaged with the tourists. Even then, his passion for teaching was memorable.

I really lucked out. I know this was not his day job. I am sure he was just at the observatory and couldn’t pass up a chance to give a new group of people a new insight to the stars.