Carl Sagan Presents Six Lectures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar System … For Kids (1977)

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children — it’s a tradition that began back in 1825 when the inventor Michael Faraday organized an annual lecture series for kids, hoping to instill in a younger generation a love for science. Almost two centuries later, the tradition continues. Eminent figures like Sir David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins (watch here) presented lectures to youngsters in 1973 and 1991 (respectively). And the great astronomer Carl Sagan took his turn in 1977, offering six lectures on our solar system. The first two talks offer a broad overview of the planetary system, setting the stage for three presentations (see below) dedicated to Mars, a topic that holds special interest this week. With NASA just having landed its rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars, it’s particularly interesting to watch Sagan talk about the knowledge gained from early NASA orbiters, particularly the Mariner and Viking missions. In a rather timely way, Sagan’s lectures put the Curiosity mission in a grander historical context, a deeper history of space exploration.

Sagan’s talks assume no specialized knowledge and run roughly 60 minutes each. You can find more Christmas lectures on the RI website here.

The Outer Solar System and Life

The History of Mars

Mars Before Viking

Mars After Viking

Planetary Systems Beyond The Sun

We’ll be adding this course to the Astronomy section of our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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