When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969, America went down in popular history as the winner of the space race. But that history is bunk. The real pioneers of space exploration were the Soviet cosmonauts. This documentary combines rare and unseen archive footage with interviews with the surviving cosmonauts to tell the fascinating and at times terrifying story of how the Russians led us into the space age. A particular highlight is Alexei Leonov, the man who performed the first spacewalk, explaining how he found himself trapped outside his spacecraft 500 miles above the Earth.
The first close-up images of Pluto revealed unimaginable secrets of this mysterious frozen world. Now, scientists investigate if Pluto is home to a warm ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, and whether this underground ocean could harbour life.
Look up at the night sky, and you see countless shining stars. Our galaxy has 100 billion of them. Astronomers are now hunting for clues that will reveal "the first star" that transformed the ancient universe and led to the creation of everything that followed: galaxies, planets and life itself.
Beginning with the origins of the universe in the Big Bang, Sagan describes the formation of different types of galaxies and anomalies such as galactic collisions and quasars. The episodes moves further into ideas about the structure of the Universe, such as different dimensions (in the imaginary Flatland and four-dimensional hypercubes), an infinite vs. a finite universe, and the idea of an oscillating Universe (similar to that in Hindu cosmology). The search into other ideas such as dark matter and the multiverse is shown, using tools such as the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Cosmos Update shows new information about the odd, irregular surfaces of galaxies and the Milky Way perhaps being a barred spiral galaxy.
For many years our place in the universe was the subject of theologians and philosophers, not scientists, but in 1960 one man changed all that. Dr Frank Drake was one of the leading lights in the new science of radio astronomy when he did something that was not only revolutionary, but could have cost him his career. Working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenback in Virginia, he pointed one of their new 25-metre radio telescopes at a star called Tau Ceti twelve light years from earth, hoping for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.