By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says the U.S. government is "mortgaging the future of this nation" by failing to support space exploration yet spending billions at war overseas.
Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday and offered a sobering assessment of the nation's priorities as it pertains to funding space exploration through NASA while it grapples with a budget crisis.
In opening remarks, Bill Maher questioned whether the U.S. government should really pull the plug on the James Webb Space Telescope -- the $6.8 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope expected to aid humanity in seeing evidence of the origin of the Big Bang -- because funding for the scientific instrument amounted to just one month of activity in Afghanistan.
Maher's conclusion: "It seems like we won't do anything that's for the public good."
First of all, let's clarify what the NASA budget is. Do you realize that the $850 billion dollar bailout, that sum of money is greater than the entire 50-year running budget of NASA?
And so when someone says, "We don’t have enough money for this space probe," I'm asking, no, it's not that you don't have enough money, it's that the distribution of money that you're spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow.
You remember the '60s and '70s. You didn't have to go more than a week before there's an article in Life magazine, "The Home of Tomorrow," "The City of Tomorrow," "Transportation of Tomorrow." All of that ended in the 1970s. After we stopped going to the Moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming.
And so I worry that the decision that Congress makes doesn't factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow's gone. They're playing for the quarterly report, they're playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation, and the rest of the world is going to pass us by.
Here's the video:
Aug 10, 2011
Funding is the greatest problem we have in the US. The problem we have is that we as individuals, can't tell government where we want our tax dollars spent. I would love to increase NASA's budget, but I have no power or authority to do so. The solution here is to provide a way for people to give money directly to NASA in a way that congress isn't allowed to steal from them, and make it a tax deduction for the people giving the money. There are plenty of charitable organizations out there we can get a tax deduction from by donating to them. Why not NASA? How many space geeks are out there who would love to donate to NASA but don't have the means? Perhaps this is the solution. At least with that particular sum of money, I'd know it was going to a good cause that I fully supported.
The space program flourished in a time when there was a connection between the tech used for space exploration & the tech used for defense. Not to say there were no idealists but their aspirations reinforced other agendas. "Aid humanity in seeing evidence of the origin of the Big Bang"? The biggest political movement of the day is dominated by people who believe in a literal interpretation of scripture and, therefore, a young earth. If people really believed in the value of science, corporations would not be able to suppress action against global warming. The "really cool stuff" - colonizing space, the Moon, etc. - is not going to happen until there is a breakthrough in lifting heavy payloads that is not even on the horizon.
We do have warped sense of economics. I remember people saying that the money spent on going to the moon could have been better spent helping the poor. The reality is that the return on the money spent has been very beneficial for all.
I am a staunch conservative and hate wasteful government spending, but on this issue I agree 100%. Tyson is right. We have stopped dreaming. We don't have enough of a desire to learn more, do more, or achieve more in our American culture. The entrepreneurial spirit and the spirit of inquiry is slowly withering away. Back in the day, positive NASA discoveries and stories made us proud to be an American and future oriented. Children grew up dreaming of becoming an astronaut. We need to get NASA back up an running in my book.
One reason to support the NASA budget is economic selfishness. Studies over the decades shows that a dollar spent on NASA grows the economy through spins offs so well, that dollar brings in three tax dollars. Some studies say even more. Those spins offs create new products that help existing companies or creates new companies. Either way means jobs. A more philosophical reason is pride. As Apollo era pink slipped workers left their jobs, I remember (after all these years) a reporter talking to one of the unemployed. That worker summed it up that, in high technology, you can build spaceships or warships. One engenders admiration, the other fear. During Apollo, the plan was for a reuseable rocket plane to a space station, a taxi vehicle from station to moon, and moon resources to expand out beyond Earth. That included an update Saturn V with a NERVA third stage to go to Mars. A half a century ago we had the technology to go. Just not the political will. There are us that do still dream of doing the right thing for our country and have a stronger NASA leading us to a more prosperous and an admirable future.
...is the number of people who no longer ask what we can do for mankind, but what the government can do for me. There's little room for space exploration in that equation.
The real cause of our country's deficit? These facts need to be repeated in everyone's face: Just one month in Afghanistan blowing up things and killing people could pay for the new Hubble replacement telescope. The big bank bailout was more than NASA's 50 years of spending. So they are going to cut NASA's budget to balance the budget? Duh!
Been saying this for 45 years now. With the killing of Kennedy we stopped dreaming and started killing. We have no direction, no hope, no future, just wandering around in the desert trying to merely survive for the next day. It is amazing somebody took this long to realize that.
The speech that JFK made when proposing landing a man on the moon in 10 years was a great speech. He said that we choose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard; a goal that was ambitious but a lot of people embraced. I read recently that Kennedy almost changed his mind because of the cost. I am optimistic that NASA will still be able to push the limits of humanity and take on the challenges of going further into space. We are in a similar point that Europe was after Columbus found land. Ships were expensive and had to haul provisions for the trip at a time when navigation was limited.