A message Carl recorded in his home shortly before his death.


I’m Carl Sagan, and this is a place where I often work in Ithaca, New York, near Cornell University. Maybe you can hear, in the background, a 200ft waterfall, right nearby, which is probably–or, I guess–a rarity on Mars, even in times of high technology.

Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century, particularly with respect to Mars. The scientists make a finding, it inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction, and are excited and inspired to become scientists, to find out more about Mars, which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science. That sequence has played a major role in our present ability to get to Mars. It certainly was an important factor in the life of Robert Goddard, the American rocketry pioneer who I think, more than anyone else, paved the way for our actual ability to go to Mars, and it certainly played a role in my scientific development.

I don’t know why you’re on Mars. Maybe you’re there because we’ve recognized we have to carefully move small asteroids around to avert the possibility of one impacting the Earth with catastrophic consequences, and while we’re up in near-Earth space it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to Mars. Or maybe we’re on Mars because we recognize that, if there are human communities on many worlds, the chances of us being rendered extinct by some catastrophe on one world is much less. Or maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that could be done there–the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Or maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be; because there is a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process. We come after all from hunter-gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers, and the next place to wander to is Mars.

But, whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there, and I wish I was with you.

Carl Sagan (1934–1996)
Astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and popularizer of science