Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why NASA is So Important April 16, 2010

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why NASA is So Important

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why NASA is so vital to America’s future and why we shouldn’t be underfunding it:

Damn, I love that guy.

There is good news to report: President Obama has issued a revamped Space policy which will (among other things) increase NASA’s budget.

(via Bad Astronomy)


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  • muggle

    He’s just so inspiring. I was glad to hear Obama was funding NASA again and that was before I heard this.

    We need to start competing with other countries scientifically again. Instead I see us slipping backwards, towards becoming third world. Yes, I know we have a ways to go to hit rock bottom but we’re sure as hell working on it.

    He’s right. And Obama’s right. We need to start looking forward again. Not backwards.

    And how cool would it be to have a manned spaceship land on Mars? I’m old enough to remember the thrill of first landing on the moon. I’d love to have a second thrill that was barely on our radar back then. It’d be fantastic.

  • Oskar

    This is one of the few individuals the make me want to be an a American. Those words are heavy but he is such an inspiration that I think we are getting to the point that we can measure him up to Carla Sagan.

  • I thought not too long ago that Tyson does indeed stand to inherit Carl Sagan’s “position” — and I’d love to see a “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos”, with all the things we’ve done and are now looking to do since we lost Sagan.

    I must now go hunting to see if Tyson has had a response to Obama’s most recent space plan.

  • Aaaand thank you Twitter. http://twitter.com/neiltyson

  • John

    Tyson does have his own sort of Cosmos – check out Nova: Science Now on PBS. It focuses on recent science and engineering.

  • The Apollo program that got man to the moon cost between $20 and $25.4 billion in 1969 dollars. The return on this investment in terms of money from patents and new technology was 14 times that investment to the US economy. If the US decided to put a man (or a woman in these more enlightened times) on Mars and it cost $100 million and returned a similar amount ($1.4 trillion) the investment to the American economy could nearly clear the national debt.

    Yeah, not worth it.

  • MH

    The bigger problem is that the US has had a growing middle-man culture which doesn’t value actually knowing how to do things. Corporate leaders don’t value competence, only quick profits by out sourcing followed by layoffs. Our government only understands sound bits and politics, not competence. They certainly doesn’t understand accounting or accountability.

  • GentleGiant

    Also be sure to check out this segment from the same session:
    God and Science

  • Hazor

    I envy this man’s eloquence.

    His bit about NASA inspiring 8th graders makes me wonder how I got from wanting to be an astrophysicist or astronaut to wanting to be a psychologist and neurobiologist. I don’t regret my choice of field – and heck, I’ll probably be doing research for that lesser known NIH at some point in my future – but now and then, when reading something regarding space, I find myself wanting to go back to it. Sometimes the notion of finding alien life – in whatever form – gets me even more excited than brain chemistry..

  • ed42

    “The Apollo program that got man to the moon cost between $20 and $25.4 billion in 1969 dollars. The return on this investment in terms of money from patents and new technology was 14 times that investment to the US economy. If the US decided to put a man (or a woman in these more enlightened times) on Mars and it cost $100 million and returned a similar amount ($1.4 trillion) the investment to the American economy could nearly clear the national debt.

    Yeah, not worth it.”

    Show us the (non-government – because the government lies about its accomplishments) references and also think about the opportunity costs. How do we know that if $20B weren’t stolen from people that they could have put it to better uses themselves? Are you really comfortable with someone else determining what is best for you? If so I suggest you turn over your entire paycheck to NASA.

  • muggle

    Ed42, what a ridiculous argument. Unless you’re putting blinders on about what a disaster anarchy would be and seriously supporting it.

    There will always be governments and the people who live under those governments will necessarily have to be taxed in order for those governments to run. It costs money. So there will always be some form of someone taking your money and deciding they know better than you how your money should be spent. Unless you have a decided ego problem of such proportions that you think you know everything and always make the right decision, you surely must recognize that sometimes they will be wrong and sometimes they will be right.

    Just the way it is. If you want any basic sanity to the way the world runs at all rather than chaos. Just take transportation alone to look at the enormity of the need for government. Without government, no roads, no traffic rules, cars just crashing into each other because they’re fighting over the right of way, anyone at all just getting in behind the wheel without demonstrating they know how to drive, no recourse to being hijacked, no air traffic control, no speed limits, no stop signs or traffic lights, no snow plowed, etc., etc., etc.

    Blech, much as being governed sucks, anarchy would suck worse. Even if you are stupid enough to think you’re invincible. (Here’s a clue, if you’re stupid enough to think you are, you’re a prime candidate for the next Darwin award.)

    Hoverfrog, in case you can’t tell, I am once again supporting your argument and thank you for the numbers. I haven’t double checked them, partly because you’re an intelligent, honest seeming sort but also basically because I’m 52 years old, which is old enough to know they’re definitely close enough. I remember the moon landing and have seen techonology just explode in the years since.

    I’m a secretary, for Christ’s sake. I have obosolete skills because the skills I acquired to become a secretary at 18 are no longer required for the job. My Gregg shorthand is quaint where it used to be quite a brag of how fast I took it that looked great on the old (and I do mean old) resume. Word processing, voice mail, Excell, Access, Outlook, all wonderful, all will make my career track nonexistent by the time my first great-grandchild is born. And those are just the computer programs off the top of my head and no knowledge what ones are yet to come. We already have the capability of bypassing transcribing machines altogether and dictating directly to a computer.

    NASA not important to our economy and hence benefiting even objectors who don’t recognize the direct impact it has on our economy and, hence, directly on their life? Horseshit. It’s made all the difference in how we live today. It’s made a difference in being able to come here today Ed42 on something called the internet and put your foot in your mouth. Didn’t think that one through at all.

    Look at the countries who don’t develop technology. We generally refer to them as third world.

    And I confess one thing as these words poured from me onto the keyboard, I had no idea how deeply I appreciated the difference it’s made in my life. Even if it has replaced what I do for a living.

  • ed42, sorry that’s not how it works. I’ve provided some figures. If you want to dispute them then please go ahead and find some figures that disagree with them. I’m happy to admit that they might be wrong but I don’t think that they are. Present your contradictory evidence and I will reassess my view. I got the figures (and the ones I sue in this comment) from Wikipedia and from a recent presentation made by Professor Brian Cox.

    The issue of funding anything from public money is a matter of balance. The state doesn’t want to place too great a financial burden on the citizens in direct taxation because they want people to spend money to keep the economy going. On the other hand the state needs to run, a level of health care and welfare to assist those in need is desired, investment in research and the arts is needed, defence is felt necessary, etc. That money has to come from the taxing the citizens and taxing trade. To encourage trade that avenue of taxation should be competitive with other nations.

    I’m far from an expert in economics but it strikes me as farcical that science funding is so low. In 2006, total US research and development funding was about $340 billion, representing about 2.6% of gross domestic product; basic research accounted for 18%, or $62 billion of the total. Basic research is therefore only 0.46% of GDP. If you were to run a company and invested only a half percent of income into researching new products do you think that you would be successful for long? If you spent ten times as much on the office security suite would that seem disproportionate to you? It does to me.

  • JodyM

    One of my coworkers is convinced that part of our problem with the space program isn’t necessarily funding but more along the lines of becoming too life-safety conscious. Too worried that we’re going to blow something up and kill the astronauts now, whereas 30-40 years ago the astronauts and pilots knew and accepted the risks. They knew they were chartering new territory and it was worth it to them. And, yes, the scientists too! And the general public. But now? Not so much with the acceptance of risk. Or maybe too much with the ‘life is sacred’ bit? Thoughts?

  • maddogdelta

    I was fortunate enough to see that lecture in person. Damn he’s good…