We Stopped Dreaming - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Transcript of We Stopped Dreaming by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Here’s what happened, in the 1960’s, we were at war with the Soviet Union, Cold war, and a little bit of hot war over in Vie- South East Asia. So, we fear them because they put up Sputnik. Which, by the way people forget, was an emptied out casing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. And, Sputnik itself means ‘fellow travellers’ it was all peaceful, but it was a ballistic missile head, without explosives. So that was a signal and we freaked in America. So NASA got founded on the fear factor of Sputnik. Alright, so, we then go to the moon on the fear factor that Russia will control high ground. Then, we go to the moon, space enthusiasts say “oh, we’re on the moon by ’69, we’ll be on mars in another ten years”. They completely did not understand why we got to the moon in the first place. We were at war, once we saw that Russia was not ready to land on the moon, we stopped going to the moon. That should not surprise anybody looking back on it.
Meanwhile, however, that entire era galvanized the nation. Forget the war as a driver; it galvanized us all to dream about tomorrow, to think about the homes of tomorrow, the cities of tomorrow, the food of tomorrow. Everything was future world, future land. The world’s fair, all of this was focused on enabling people to make tomorrow come. That was a cultural mindset the space program brought upon us. And, we reaped the benefits of economic growth because you had people wanting to become scientists and engineers who are the people who enable tomorrow to exist today. And, even if you are not a scientist or technologist, you will value that activity and that, in the 21st century are the foundations of tomorrow’s economies and without it we might as well just slide back to the caves, because where we are headed right now, broke.
I’m tired of saying this, but I have to say it again. The NASA budget is 4/10th of one penny on a tax dollar. If I held up a tax dollar, and I cut, horizontally into it 4/10th of one percent of its width, it does not even get you into the ink. So, I will not accept a statement that says we can’t afford it.
Do you realize that the 850 billion dollar bank 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 one thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow. The home of tomorrow, the city of tomorrow, transportation of tomorrow. All that ended in the 1970’s, after we stopped going to the moon, it all ended, we stopped dreaming. And so, I worry that decisions that Congress makes doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. They are playing for the quarterly report, they are playing for the next election cycle and that it mortgaging the actual future of this nation. Tomorrow’s gone.
If you double NASA’s budget, right now it’s half a penny on the dollar, make it a penny, go ahead, make it a penny, go ahead, be bold. That would be enough to go to mars soon, with people, and go back to the moon, and onto asteroids. NASA, as best as I can judge, is a force of nature like none other and so what worries me is that if you take away the manned program. A program, which if you advance frontiers you make – heroes are made. There is a force operating on the educational pipeline that will stimulate the formation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists. You birth these people into society. They are the ones that make tomorrow come.
A half a penny. That buys the space station, the space shuttles, all the NASA centers, the rovers, the Hubble telescope, all the astronauts, all of that. Nobody’s dreaming about tomorrow anymore. The most powerful agency on the dreams of a nation is currently underfunded to do what it needs to be doing, and that’s making dreams come true.
How much would you pay for the universe?