"The question is how to design a home video game which would teach a great deal of astronomy in a context as exciting as most violent video games."
Dr. Carl Sagan was many things throughout his life -- astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, TV host -- but for at least a moment, he was also a video game designer.
Back in 2012 the Library of Congress received a donation of Sagan's personal papers from entertainment exec Seth McFarlane, and among them Kotaku recently found a rough design document for an educational space game based on Sagan's novel Contact.
The document dates back to the sumer of 1983, a year that saw the American console game market "crash" even as, across the Pacific, Nintendo had just released the Famicom.
Sagan was presumably brainstorming ideas for a game that would suit American home computers from the likes of Atari and Commodore, and seemed intent on crafting a Star Trek-esque game that challenged players to navigate through space to find a civilization in trouble.
"If the goal depended on pattern recognition, the general geography of the Milky Way Galaxy could be taught expeditiously," mused Sagan. "The size of the galaxy makes it a natural arena for a game in which something is lost and must be found."
He goes on to outline how players might be compelled to solve the game's puzzles, and how it might be well-suited as a tie-in to his sci-fi novel (it would be published two years later, in 1985, as Contact) in the brief two-page document, which is worth reading over on the Library of Congress' website.