This is a guest post by Sahar Kazmi, a writer-editor in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. It appears in the November-December issue of the Library of Congress Magazine.
Children often dream of flying, of traveling to distant worlds. For Carl Sagan, contemplating the unfathomable vastness of the universe was a practically spiritual experience.
The man who would eventually become one of the world’s most distinguished and beloved cosmologists was fascinated by the wonders of space as a young boy.
Captivated by dazzling visions of the future at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Sagan developed a lifelong passion for the mysteries beyond our planet and the technology that might bring humanity closer to them.
Among the 595,000 items in the Library’s Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive is a childhood drawing titled “The Evolution of Interstellar Flight.” Created sometime between 1944 and 1947, when Sagan was 10 to 13 years old, the sketch offers a wondrous vision of adventurers crossing the galaxy.
A collage of hand-drawn headline clippings wraps around a sleek logo for Sagan’s imagined multinational exploratory organization, “Interstellar Spacelines.” A decade before the start of the moon race, one headline proclaims, “Soviet and American Governments Agree on Mutual Cooperation in Preparation for First Moon Ship.” Others read triumphantly, “Spaceship Reaches Moon!!!” and “Life Found on Venus.”
In one of the most thrilling notes of foresight from the young Sagan, three astronauts appear at the bottom right corner of the page. Their uniforms feature bubble helmets, thick jumpsuits and backpacks with antennae — familiar sights to modern readers, but unexpectedly savvy visions from a school kid in the 1940s.
That boyish wonder never left Sagan. Today, his enchantment with the cosmos lives on in an impressive body of work, ready to inspire a new generation of dreamers.
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