In the 1950s and early '60s, a small band of high-altitude pioneers exposed themselves to the extreme forces of the space age long before NASA's acclaimed Mercury 7 would make headlines. Though largely forgotten today, balloonists were the first to venture into the frozen near-vacuum on the edge of our world, exploring the very limits of human physiology and human ingenuity in this lethal realm.
Sagan reflects on the future of humanity and the question of "who speaks for Earth?" when meeting extraterrestrials. He discusses the very different meetings of the Tlingit people and explorer Jean-Francois de La Perouse with the destruction of the Aztecs by Spanish conquistadors, the looming threat of nuclear warfare, and the threats shown by destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia. The episode ends with an overview of the beginning of the universe, the evolution of life, and the accomplishments of humanity and makes a plea to mankind to cherish life and continue its journey in the cosmos. The Cosmos Update notes the preliminary reconnaissance of planets with spacecraft, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa, and measures towards the reduction of nuclear weapons.
Since its formation in the early 60’s, NASA has continued to be the leading power in space exploration. Working with other space agencies, it has contributed substantially to the ongoing exploration of our universe, achieving incredible firsts that span the decades.
Everyone knows Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon. But this modest and unassuming man was determined to stay out of the spotlight. Now, for the first time, NOVA presents an intimate portrait of Armstrong through interviews with his family and friends, many of whom have never spoken publicly before.
If we faced a countdown to destruction, could we build a spacecraft to take us to new and habitable worlds? Can we Evacuate Earth? This documentary special examines this terrifying but scientifically plausible scenario by exploring how we could unite to ensure the survival of the human race.