- Standing Up in the Milky Way
- Some of the Things That Molecules Do
- When Knowledge Conquered Fear
- A Sky Full of Ghosts
- Hiding in the Light
- Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still
- The Clean Room
- Sisters of the Sun
- The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth
- The Electric Boy
- The Immortals
- The World Set Free
- Unafraid of the Dark
Seth MacFarlane had met Ann Druyan through Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 2008 kickoff event for the Science & Entertainment Exchange, a new Los Angeles office of the National Academy of Sciences, designed to connect Hollywood writers and directors with scientists. A year later, at a 2009 lunch in New York City with Tyson, MacFarlane learned of their interest to re-create Cosmos. He was influenced by Cosmos as a child, believing that Cosmos served to "[bridge] the gap between the academic community and the general public". At the time, MacFarlane told Tyson, "I'm at a point in my career where I have some disposable income ... and I'd like to spend it on something worthwhile." MacFarlane had considered the reduction of effort for space travel in recent decades to be part of "our culture of lethargy". MacFarlane, who has several series on the Fox network, was able to bring Druyan to meet the heads of Fox programming, Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly, and helped secure the greenlighting of the show. MacFarlane admits that he is "the least essential person in this equation" and the effort is a departure from work he's done before, but considers this to be "very comfortable territory for me personally". He and Druyan have become close friends, and Druyan stated that she believed that Sagan and MacFarlane would have been "kindred spirits" with their respective "protean talents". In June 2012, MacFarlane provided funding to allow about eight hundred boxes of Sagan's personal notes and correspondences to be donated to the Library of Congress.
In August 2011, the show was officially announced for primetime broadcast in the spring of 2014. The show is a co-production of Druyan's Cosmos Studios, MacFarlane's Fuzzy Door Productions, and National Geographic Channel; Druyan, MacFarlane, Cosmos Studios' Mitchell Cannold, and director Brannon Braga are the executive producers.