Part 1 of this series chronicles NASA’s finest accomplishments in space exploration – the moments that inspired generations over the last 50 years. Re-discover the highlights of mankind’s progress including achievements such as the Freedom 7.
1969-1970, takes Americans to the moon and back. Dreams of space dramatically intersect with dreams of democracy on American soil, raising questions of national priorities and national identity. The final episode also considers what happens to scientific and engineering programs — and to a country — after ambitious national goals have been achieved.
To land a human being on another celestial body will be the first step to living beyond our planet. The breathless pace and daring of the Apollo program sees NASA master previously unimagined tasks in the attempt to achieve the most incredible accomplishment in the history of human endeavor. From the ashes of tragedy on Apollo 1 emerges a determination that puts Apollo 8 in orbit around the Moon ahead of schedule. Apollo 9 and 10 each break bold new ground and pave the way for something few dared to believe was possible. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon and return safely to earth, the whole planet throws them a party.
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.
The idea of intelligence is explored in the concepts of computers (using bits as their basic units of information), whales (in their songs and their disruptions by human activities), DNA, the human brain (the evolution of the brain stem, frontal lobes, neurons, cerebral hemispheres, and corpus callosum under the Triune Brain Model), and man-made structures for collective intelligence (cities, libraries, books, computers, and satellites). The episode ends with speculation on alien intelligence and the information conveyed on the Voyager Golden Record.
When a team of scientists have launched a space probe to the heart of our solar system in brand-new mission to our Sun, it makes fresh discoveries reveal how it works; along the way, experts uncover a surprise find on Mercury.