Today is the 10th anniversary of Carl Sagan's death. As such, his son Nick and others have declared the Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon, and so...
Aside from his work on Viking and Voyager and a whole lot of other things, what comes immediately to my mind is a set of pictures in the Cosmos book of what kind of lifeforms may live on a gas giant planet. I often think about what life would be like in such a place, with no solid surface and just layers upon layers upon layers of clouds. In the ideas I once had for a TV show based on my story "The Shepherds of M15", I had thought to have several scenes of some of the characters riding on the backs of these gigantic manta ray shaped creatures that perpetually fly through the skies of such a place. I wanted to show one of them looking over the side and seeing down through the layers of clouds to a violent storm system hundreds of thousands of feet below, with other clouds floating across the top of it. It's a view we will never see on Earth, or even on Jupiter -- the gravity there is so great it would crush us flat before we ever got anywhere near enough to see it. But that's the magic of CGI.
But we lost a great mind when Dr. Sagan died, a mind that could see back to the Library of Alexandria and imagine the places we can't even see with our telescopes.
And I still can't watch Contact without crying my eyes out and being certain that humanity will destroy itself with ignorance and stupidity long before we've ever got to the point of deciding what we think about aliens.