Carl Sagan was one of the most approachable and inspiring scientists of the 20th Century and his premature passing in 1996 left a gaping hole in astronomy science’s ability to propel young minds on the imaginative quest of finding extraterrestrial life using purely scientific methods, while at the same time, not sacrificing that inner awe of wonderment and idealism mostly found in children and young adults.
In an effort to find the next Carl Sagan, someone who can not only inspire the next generation of space scientists but also make the discipline more popular again, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is creating the Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships in Exoplanet Exploration.
Those granted this fellowship will continue Sagan’s search for life on planets outside our own solar system. Thanks to some of the early groundwork laid by Sagan and others, today there have been at least 300 newly discovered “exoplanets”.
Of course, NASA’s ultimate goal is to attract young scientists who share Sagan’s wonderment about the cosmos and who will dedicate themselves to answering that centuries-old question, “Are we alone?”
“Many feel it’s only a matter of time before we find Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbit around solar-like stars and that such planets might be capable of sustaining life,” said Jon Morse, director of NASA’s astrophysics division and a big supporter of the Sagan Fellowship.