Sasha Sagan

On this date in 1982, writer and producer/editor Alexandra Rachel “Sasha” Druyan Sagan was born to Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. She grew up in Ithaca, N.Y., where her father was a professor of astronomy and space sciences at Cornell University and her mother was a science communicator who co-wrote the 1980 PBS documentary series “Cosmos” hosted by her husband. Sagan’s dad held up little Sasha (a Russian diminutive for Alexandra) and said, “Welcome to the planet Earth.”

Sagan was raised in a secular Jewish home “guided by the principles and the values that my parents instilled in me — the idea that there is that wonder, that spine-tingling thrill in that which can be supported by evidence.” ( interview, Oct. 28, 2019)

“My parents taught me that what sets science apart from other philosophies is that science has an ‘error correcting mechanism.’ If you disprove the most celebrated, deeply held beliefs, you’ve done something great in science. If something can’t stand up to scrutiny, we have to let go of it.” (Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Nov. 13, 2019)

After majoring in dramatic literature, she graduated from New York University and worked as a writer, TV producer, filmmaker and editor in New York City, Boston and London. Her essays and interviews have appeared in New York magazine, Literary Hub,, O, The Oprah Magazine and elsewhere. She is also a contributing editor for the British fashion magazine The Violet Book. Her short film “Bastard,” co-written and produced with Kirsten Dunst, was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and was one of two chosen to close the 2010 Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week ceremony.

“The defining change of my life was the death of my father [at age 62],” Sagan wrote in 2015. “I was 14. For years I would dream he’d returned with an elaborate explanation for where he’d been, then I’d wake up crushed. The loss of his light — the full impact of his absence — took years to reach me.”

She and her fiancé Jonathan Noel, whom she’d known since middle school, chose to wed in 2013 in a Cornell art museum — a treasured place where father and daughter had loved visiting together. It was also where his memorial service was held in 1996. Sasha and Jon have a daughter, Helena, and as of this writing in 2021 live in Boston.

The year 2013 was also when the Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive at the Library of Congress opened to the public. The freethinking MacFarlane was executive producer with Druyan of the updated “Cosmos” series “A Spacetime Odyssey” that debuted the next year.

Sagan published her book For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World in 2019. The title stems from a line her father wrote in his 1985 novel Contact: “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Of traditions, she said, “Those of us who don’t believe, we still have to have weddings, we still have to have funerals, we still have to mark time, we still want to celebrate. I sort of started thinking about how would I create this framework for a child who would be growing up in a secular home.” (, ibid.)

She has many people in her life who are religious, some devoutly, which doesn’t lessen her love for them. In For Small Creatures she wrote, “For me the biggest drawback to being secular is the lack of a shared culture. I can live without an afterlife, I can live without a god. But not without celebrations, not without community, not without ritual.”

What Sagan most admires about organized religion “is the social expectation to do good works. And I think that for those of us who do not believe there is a moral safety net or that everything happens for a reason, we must also realize it’s our duty to put the work in to make the world more just.” (Spectrum Magazine, Nov. 12, 2019)

She has been a regular guest on FFRF’s Freethought Radio and Freethought Matters television programs.

Freedom From Religion Foundation