Rob McKenna didn't write this.

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  • NASA

Everyone of my generation knows who Carl Sagan was. Shortly before his death in 1996 Mr. Sagan left a message for the future explorers of Mars and the current success of NASA's Curiosity rover had me thinking about Mr. Sagan.

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Only a few of my closest friends know that I once met Carl Sagan. I walked into the restaurant of the Space Needle one evening in spring and there Mr. Sagan was having dinner with his family. Mr. Sagan was not looking well—I heard he had just received a bone-marrow transplant at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center—but I couldn't resist the urge to say hello. I walked up to Mr. Cosmos, introduced myself, and thanked him for educating a generation of Americans about the importance of science and the limitless opportunities in space. He stood up, shook my hand, and said something that I will never forget. He asked if I knew how to make an apple pie from scratch. I told him that I didn't do the baking in my family and then introduce my wife, Marilyn. He then said, a little dreamily, "To make an apple pie from scratch first you must invent the universe."

We thanked him for his time and excused ourselves. If only he were still with us and could see the amazing photographs coming back from Curiosity.