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March 8, 2012 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Neil deGrasse Tyson gives testimony on March 7, 2012 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Majority member page) (Minority member page) Eight minutes of speech followed by questioning and response.

25:49, focuses heavily on arguing for the positive economic and social benefits of space exploration.

Previously 1 2 3 4 5
posted by lazaruslong (80 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
As goes the future of NASA, so too does the future of this nation.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2012


Neil Tyson is a terrific spokesman for space, but I don't buy his argument. As a NASA-funded scientist, I would love for NASA to get more than twice the funding it gets now, but I don't think a speech about "apple pie and motherhood" is going to pry more dollars from Congress. I thought this response to his Atlantic interview was basically correct.

Sorry,
Cynical Old Scientist
posted by lukemeister at 3:41 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tyson is a genius at fostering popular interest in science. But we should double NASA's budget only after we have doubled the budget of every failing public school in the country. Think about what that would do for economic and scientific advancement.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


He should have just said "the first country with a base on the moon will rule the world forever if it wants to", and then ask them which country they would like to have that option.

Basically once you have a mass driver on the moon, which can be powered by fission or solar or whatever you like, you can throw unlimited numbers of incredibly high velocity rocks with pinpoint accuracy at pretty much anything or anyone.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


He should have just said "the first country with a base on the moon will rule the world forever if it wants to", and then ask them which country they would like to have that option.

I thought it was the first to get to Alpha Centauri? (Although really that just starts the next game in the series.)
posted by JHarris at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


lukemeister's link to a rebuttal against Dr. Tyson's argument is summed up by this:

So what's more efficient than single-minded democracies? Say it with me now: Markets!

Which tells me all I need to know. The argument might as well have been written by the Koch brothers or the Cato institute or some other market fetishist.

There's plenty of good -- no, great! -- work being done by private space companies (such as SpaceX in particular, but many other companies coming up not too far behind), but none of them can truly push the boundaries of science and exploration like NASA has.

Market fetishists talk about companies like Virgin Galactic as though privatization of space is the death knell for NASA because it doesn't "know what we're doing up there" when, despite all of Richard Branson's formidable sums of cash and Burt Rutan's brilliant engineering, Virgin Galactic has yet to even catch up to John Glenn.

Markets move in (and can work, very well) where others have blazed a trail.

Markets simply do not tolerate the length of time to see a return on the investment of sending a person to the moon, or a rover to Mars. Or a space telescope that finds thousands of planets around other stars.

Open Low Earth Orbit to the space companies, and let NASA do what it does best -- big ticket, big risk, cutting edge exploration. It's just a shame that for the last 30 years NASA has been hobbled by a transportation system that was never entirely fit for purpose, and it was long overdue that it was retired so maybe, *just maybe* NASA can move on and get back into the Serious Exploration business.
posted by chimaera at 4:02 PM on March 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Here's a transcript of Tyson's remarks.
posted by lukemeister at 4:03 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


focuses heavily on arguing for the positive economic and social benefits of space exploration

NdGT has been making the rounds lately making exactly these arguments, related to the release of his most recent book which also makes these arguments.

I'm glad that he's taken his statements to the people who might actually have the power to vote to make such things happen, instead of only doing talk shows.

Now, here's hoping that this talk show appearances will lead people to contact members of congress, especially those on this committee, demanding an increase in NASA and other agencies involved in space exploration. Perhaps if the same message is echoed from enough different directions at these people they will be forced to really listen.
posted by hippybear at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the combination of mom-and-pop pathos with innovation-driving-capitalistic-market-forces logos and Dr. Tyson's personal pathos are a potent power.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:07 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


*Dr Tyson's personal ethos
posted by lazaruslong at 4:08 PM on March 8, 2012


I don't think a speech about "apple pie and motherhood" is going to pry more dollars from Congress

I don't think a speech is going to pry more dollars from Congress. Some appropriately targeted donations, on the other hand...
posted by inigo2 at 4:10 PM on March 8, 2012


chimaera,

Believe me, I'm not that thrilled by the current 'vomit comet for the rich' private space programs. I wish Paul Allen (for instance) would fund his own Voyager probe instead. The issue I really had with Tyson is that he says things like

"The problem is that many people operate on the assumption that NASA should go to Congress every year with hat in hand and justify it every year. Well, I see it as the greatest economic driver that there ever was. Economic drivers don't need justification."

To me, as a baby boomer, that just sounds like 60s nostalgia. I'd like to see a case that NASA really is an economic driver.

Of course, if the people are inspired and demand that NASA's budget be doubled, I won't complain!
posted by lukemeister at 4:13 PM on March 8, 2012


only after we have doubled the budget of every failing public school

Forget 'no child left behind', give the kids an incredible dream and watch them take off!
posted by sammyo at 4:16 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Almost every kid left behind
posted by lukemeister at 4:18 PM on March 8, 2012


I don't think a speech is going to pry more dollars from Congress.

Mr. Rogers did it. Although I guess there isn't a control universe where he flubbed the whole thing.
posted by floam at 4:20 PM on March 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'd like to see a case that NASA really is an economic driver.

Well, he's written nearly 400 pages on the topic. I haven't read the book so I don't know how much evidence he provides for his arguments, but that might be a good place to start looking to see how he makes his case.
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tyson is a genius at fostering popular interest in science. But we should double NASA's budget only after we have doubled the budget of every failing public school in the country. Think about what that would do for economic and scientific advancement.

NASA's budget is about $18 billion.

We currently spend about *looks* $900 billion / year on K12 education.

On the one hand, maybe you think that very few public schools are failing, in which case doubling their budgets might be feasible. But in that case, doubling the budgets of so few schools can't possibly have any noticeable effect on economic and scientific advancement overall.

Or maybe you think a significant proportion of American schools are failing. In which case, doubling their budgets would be so overwhelmingly never-gonna-happen expensive that your statement really boils down to "I just don't like space exploration and don't want to see even relatively small amounts spent on it."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:26 PM on March 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


lukemeister's link to a rebuttal against Dr. Tyson's argument is summed up by this: "So what's more efficient than single-minded democracies? Say it with me now: Markets!" Which tells me all I need to know. The argument might as well have been written by the Koch brothers or the Cato institute or some other market fetishist.

David H. Koch is the leading sponsor of Nova, the PBS science show hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The Koch family foundations donate to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, many of which are apolitical.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:28 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're way behind schedule. Weren't we supposed to be there back in '99 with Moon Base Alpha?
posted by snsranch at 4:30 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those kids will need something to do once they grow up and leave school. Working to explore the universe needs to be an option.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:31 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: "NASA's budget is about $18 billion."

This is such an important point. People think that NASA's budget is like some huge slice of federal spending, but it's more like 0.5%. If the USA were a family with a budget of $50,000, NASA is like the $250 that family spends on, I dunno, lattes. Doubling NASA's budget is no more a hit to the budget than adding another data plan for the new iPad or eating out a little more.
posted by secretseasons at 4:34 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why do people always blame the space program for underfunded schools?
posted by dirigibleman at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


Basically once you have a mass driver on the moon, which can be powered by fission or solar or whatever you like, you can throw unlimited numbers of incredibly high velocity rocks with pinpoint accuracy at pretty much anything or anyone.

In the last thread on this I did some thinking about this. I came to the conclusion that it's simply not true. It takes 1/36 of the impact energy (times however much you'd lose to the atmosphere) just to get the projectile off the moon. If you want to stretch that energy release out over a whole minute your accelerator has to be 70+km long. And after you do that? Well, now your projectile is also orbiting earth, near where the moon is. You have to slow your big heavy rock down a whole lot more before it comes crashing to earth.

So even if we already had a self-sufficient moon base and all the mining and manufacturing were done on there, I'm still convinced this would be at all better than just dropping bombs on stuff from planes like we do now.
posted by aubilenon at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2012


While we're throwing budgets around. 2011 combined totals of US military related budget, $861 billion, give or take a few.
posted by straight_razor at 4:42 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But we should double NASA's budget only after we have doubled the budget of every failing public school in the country.

Don't put two good programs in opposition to each other. Why not take the money from abstinence-only "education" or our bloated military? Or take away Congress's free healthcare until we get some.
posted by DU at 4:43 PM on March 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


tl;dw: At the end they burn him as witch.

Sorry. This is good stuff.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on March 8, 2012


Basically once you have a mass driver on the moon, which can be powered by fission or solar or whatever you like, you can throw unlimited numbers of incredibly high velocity rocks with pinpoint accuracy at pretty much anything or anyone.

A rat bit my sister Nell and you put a White Elephant on the moon.
posted by humanfont at 4:58 PM on March 8, 2012


It takes 1/36 of the impact energy (times however much you'd lose to the atmosphere) just to get the projectile off the moon. If you want to stretch that energy release out over a whole minute your accelerator has to be 70+km long. And after you do that? Well, now your projectile is also orbiting earth, near where the moon is.

Lunar escape velocity is 2.38 km/sec. That's not far outside the the range of the cannon on a tank, for example, which achieves that using rapidly-expanding gases in a few meters of barrel length. The moon's mean orbital velocity around the earth is 1.023 km/sec. With, say, a 100m mass driver and all the cheap energy you can drink, you can hoick a damn big rock a lot harder than 2.38 km/sec, and if you shot it precisely counter to the moon's orbit it would end up traveling in the opposite orbital direction. So canceling the orbital velocity to get it to fall down on Earth is really not a problem.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2012


So canceling the orbital velocity to get it to fall down on Earth is really not a problem.

I like where this is going.
posted by fuq at 5:04 PM on March 8, 2012


Launching projectiles from the Moon to Earth is a mathematical physics problem, which is only solvable by nations who can still do mathematical physics. But Rick Santorum is not yet president, so there is hope.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:05 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Basically once you have a mass driver on the moon, which can be powered by fission or solar or whatever you like, you can throw unlimited numbers of incredibly high velocity rocks with pinpoint accuracy at pretty much anything or anyone.

You could write a decent science fiction novel off this idea.
posted by wilful at 5:06 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just start scraping Helium-3 from the surface and use it to power some kind of system to slow the moon's orbit and drop it on your enemies. There's some mutually-assured destruction for ya.
posted by floam at 5:08 PM on March 8, 2012


Please please please don't pit "schools" against "science." Federally funded science is not what's standing in the way of better public education. Science isn't taking opportunities away from kids.

I've been doing a lot of reading about NASA, the ISS and the shuttle program recently, as research for a story I'm about to write. I was just at the American Museum of Natural History to see the "Beyond Planet Earth" exhibit (which was excellent, btw.) I have not been this excited about NASA in years, and my default NASA-stance is borderline-giddy to begin with.

We have the technology to do some AMAZING THINGS right now, much more so than I had even realized before this recent bout of research -- potential projects that are languishing in the imaginations of scientists and engineers for no reason other than a lack of resources, mostly financial. Knowing that, if things continue this way, humans are never going to leave Earth's orbit again...that's the kind of thing that makes my chest physically hurt to think about.

I have a hard enough time understanding why the general public doesn't care about NASA anymore, and thinks the program is essentially a waste of money. I can't believe that the tone of a thread on Metafilter, of all places, is basically "Meh, not with my tax dollars."

...

I think I'm gonna go watch the live stream from the ISS for a while.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:09 PM on March 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm all for increasing funding for space exploration, but let's please not do it by convincing the federal government that it would be a great idea to use the money to point a giant cannon at our collective heads. We have plenty of ways of annihilating each other as it is.

Also, frankly I'm not seeing what a moon cannon would do for a government with aspirations of world-domination-at-gunpoint that ICBMs don't already do. We already have the capacity to near-instantaneously obliterate large swaths of world at our whim, so we're kind of already there in terms of being able to order other people around by pointing a big gun at them. That we do not already have total control is not due to being unable kill anyone we want to.
posted by Scientist at 5:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't NASA just launch their spaceships off of giant treadmills?
posted by inigo2 at 5:14 PM on March 8, 2012


Scientist, I agree, and I don't advocate any such thing. I was just suggesting tongue-in-cheek that an appeal to nationalistic paranoia (i.e. we have to do it before *they* do!) would work where appeals to leadership in the advancing human knowledge would not.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-iss-stream
posted by victory_laser at 5:15 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Which tells me all I need to know. The argument might as well have been written by the Koch brothers or the Cato institute or some other market fetishist.

Market fetishist reporting in! I too don't buy the argument in the rebuttal. Markets are SPECTACULAR at marginally increasing societal surplus. But, there's not an investor on this planet that would be willing to risk the capital to create, manage, and support a money losing Mars program for a few dozen quarters with no real likelihood of a spectacular payoff. Maybe it will happen if rare earth elements get even more rare, but even then we'd have to send some robots over there to find them first or something, right?
posted by Pants! at 5:21 PM on March 8, 2012


Send me a free copy of his book and I'll give him an hour's worth of consideration.

"Knowing that, if things continue this way, humans are never going to leave Earth's orbit again"

That suits me just fine. Space exploration need not be manned.
posted by Ardiril at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2012


I have a hard enough time understanding why the general public doesn't care about NASA anymore, and thinks the program is essentially a waste of money.

They've been subjected to decades of Republican talking points that take every opportunity to tear down government and its works, with boldly ludicrous statements that ordinary folk don't know to challenge, things like "government has never created a single job."
posted by JHarris at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That suits me just fine. Space exploration need not be manned.

You those astronauts are volunteers, right?
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:31 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


*know
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:31 PM on March 8, 2012


a mass driver on the moon

You could write a decent science fiction novel off this idea.

I see what you did there.

(What I mean is, I noticed your allusion and would like a prize.)
posted by stebulus at 5:34 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whatever NdGT's chops are as a astrophysicist, he makes a shaky economist.

It's fine to argue for the space program as an economic stimulus. But this is an indication that the fundamental science justification simply won't wash. And his argument is easily diverted to other STEM areas (AHEM-defense industry-AHEM) by advocates who might be not only as eloquent or likable, but also very well placed. And their arguments would be just as valid.

The sad, hard reality here is that people in the field have a very hard time justifying grandiose space projects on sheer scientific merit. What NdGT really wants is to make the space program a sham. And the idea that the space program is vital because America is going to somehow lose out to some other country is kind of a creepy nationalistic vibe to get from a scientist.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:42 PM on March 8, 2012


I thought this response to his Atlantic interview was basically correct.

"Entrepreneurs ... are working feverishly to develop a product--flights into space--that people actually want to buy. [8 people for $200 million over the last 20 years] ... They're also more than happy to snap up government contracts to provide rides back and forth to the space station and other launch services" [total spending over the past four years: $4.5 billion]

So, tl;dr: "Let's cut NASA's funding and fund NASA funding for NASA contractors instead of funding NASA"?
posted by queen zixi at 5:42 PM on March 8, 2012


Market fetishist reporting in! I too don't buy the argument in the rebuttal. Markets are SPECTACULAR at marginally increasing societal surplus. But, there's not an investor on this planet that would be willing to risk the capital to create, manage, and support a money losing Mars program for a few dozen quarters with no real likelihood of a spectacular payoff.

Sounds to me like you're not much of a market fetishist, then. I, too, believe that markets are generally effective at maximizing efficiency of known problems. But there are people such as the author of the Atlantic rebuttal who seem to think that markets can explore the solar system as well. Maybe that will one day be true, but it won't probably be private companies or indivduals on the vanguard. They'll follow (and in droves) only once the ROI looks favorable.

I have a hard enough time understanding why the general public doesn't care about NASA anymore, and thinks the program is essentially a waste of money.

Listen to the drumbeat of current politics and ask yourself again -- one party decries everything that the government does as bad and inefficient. The other party decries everything the government does as bad and inefficient and furthermore is actively conspiring to subjugate all citizens in a communist slave dystopia.

Neither seems too keen on talking about NASA's achievements because it runs counter to their main narrative.
posted by chimaera at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever NdGT's chops are as a astrophysicist, he makes a shaky economist.

Name me an economist who doesn't make a shaky economist.
posted by Etrigan at 5:48 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


(What I mean is, I noticed your allusion and would like a prize.)
posted by stebulus

my name is a meta-joke on both and I would like a slightly smaller prize.

posted by lazaruslong at 5:48 PM on March 8, 2012


Listen to the drumbeat of current politics and ask yourself again -- one party decries everything that the government does as bad and inefficient. The other party decries everything the government does as bad and inefficient and furthermore is actively conspiring to subjugate all citizens in a communist slave dystopia.

People who like the space program need to stop trying to convince themselves that this is the reason NASA is viewed with skepticism. The problem is that many folks know the best we can practically do is little more than fiddle around in space, and maybe get some really cool wallpaper photos.

Name me an economist who doesn't make a shaky economist.

Ohh, snap! Unfortunately, this doesn't aid NdGT's arguments much.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem is that many folks know the best we can practically do is little more than fiddle around in space, and maybe get some really cool wallpaper photos.

Let's make sure we're talking about the same NASA, here. Do you limit your criticism to the manned program?
posted by chimaera at 6:00 PM on March 8, 2012


The problem is that many folks think the best we can practically do is little more than fiddle around in space, and maybe et some really cool wallpaper photos. That is simply not true.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm unsure why it is, but I suddenly have this idea, from this and a lot of other things done, that brings home to me a core concept of why so many conservatives hate the space program, and unions, and social mobility upwards.

That concept is that dreaming of better things, of a brighter future with interesting things in it, is bad.

Maybe that's a core of conservativism, that things are just fine the way they are and change itself is bad, and trying to change things for the better is really really bad.

A distrust of dreaming outside of their bounds seems to be a hallmark of the conservative mind. This is just part of it. I would think that many of them think that the stupidest part of a certain famous television phrase is "To boldly go where no one has gone before".

After all, why go there when we can all sit here and be miserable together?
posted by mephron at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unless you came up with a system where an investor could somehow tax everybody in the future, I don't see how a private enterprise would ever explore the solar system. Even if they had craptons of money and a very long view, it is going to be all of society that benefits, how would they collect? From the best I can figure only organizations on the scale of governments are in a position to both fund and benefit from these kinds of things.
posted by floam at 6:22 PM on March 8, 2012


Thanks for the transcript link, lukemeister. I miss out on a lot because I don't have the patience to watch most videos.

Question for Mefites: Is there such a thing as Friends of NASA where people who would like to see MORE funding for NASA can send money?
posted by kristi at 6:24 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If 300 million Americans pledged $5 per month to NASA it would double their budget. I know that's not trivial money to a lot of people, but still, it sets the scale of the problem. This is not, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of money.
posted by secretseasons at 6:24 PM on March 8, 2012


I didn't see anyone point out the biggest problem with the NASA-vs-public education fallacy. NASA is a federal program while schools are generally funded by states and municipalities through property taxes. They are not federal programs.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like NASA vs Defense Dept much better than NASA vs Education. The ratio of DoD vs NASA dollars is about, I think, Twenty to one these days.
posted by newdaddy at 7:10 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


And if you look at total military spending rather than just DoD it's more like forty to one.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


If 300 million Americans pledged $5 per month to NASA it would double their budget. I know that's not trivial money to a lot of people, but still, it sets the scale of the problem. This is not, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of money.

So what you're saying is we should take money from everybody and allocated it to public institutions for the public good?

I like your way of thinking!
posted by Talez at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Which tells me all I need to know. The argument might as well have been written by the Koch brothers or the Cato institute or some other market fetishist.
...
They'll follow (and in droves) only once the ROI looks favorable.

Bullshit.

There are amazing individuals who have just as much of a passion about space as you and I, and they're trying to get back there. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, PayPal's Elon Musk, and Microsoft's Paul Allen are just a few.

We may not agree with their business practices, and they may have differing political views than most on here. But what do these people have in common?

They're all tech entrepreneurs, and if you've been to Allen's Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, you'll understand that some of them are not just in it for the money. They're Believers. They just may not be believers in the will of the government to get it done.

And frankly, I can't say I blame them.

I would love for our government to take up the mantle of space exploration again. And I'm writing a letter right now to my congress members, echoing hippybear's hope that citizens will contact members of congress.

I love the possibility of government providing social services and infrastructure for the greater good. But honestly look at the current status of the US government. Do you really have hope we're going to go back to space? Why trash some rich bastards when they're just trying to realize some shared dreams through alternative routes?
posted by formless at 9:40 PM on March 8, 2012


Wasn't there just a thread about the risk of a future asteroid impact in 2040? Wouldn't that make a better justification for NASA funds?
posted by Pseudology at 9:51 PM on March 8, 2012


They've been subjected to decades of Republican talking points that take every opportunity to tear down government and its works, with boldly ludicrous statements that ordinary folk don't know to challenge, things like "government has never created a single job."

While there are Libertarian types who oppose any government funding for science, the most vocal opponents of NASA in my experience are liberals. Whitey on the Moon wasn't written by a libertarian. I was once harangued by a cab driver on the way to a conference who lamented the fact that money was spent on this scientific conference instead of feeding the poor.

I don't know why, but scientific research, and especially the space program (not just manned, btw), has been cemented in many a liberals mind as the reason that schools and other social programs are underfunded.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:19 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I understand the irony of missing an apostrophe in "liberals" while talking about underfunded schools.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:32 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet. The Cold War was one of the biggest motivators of space exploration and as it ended space exploration took less and less precedence. Most people can't get behind the scientific merit of space exploration simply because they don't understand the science (and you can't blame them, it's all pretty complex) and because it doesn't have applicability to their lives (like "Beat the Reds!" did).
posted by Defenestrator at 10:37 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most people can't get behind the scientific merit of space exploration simply because they don't understand the science (and you can't blame them, it's all pretty complex)

Some aspects of space exploration are quite literally rocket science!
posted by hippybear at 10:46 PM on March 8, 2012


The Cold War was one of the biggest motivators of space exploration and as it ended space exploration took less and less precedence.

Neil deGrasse Tyson actually talked about this very idea on The Daily Show last week.
posted by formless at 11:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I WANT PLUTO BACK!!

(and to go to the moon)
posted by marienbad at 1:18 AM on March 9, 2012


Market mechanics work great at solving problems when the work function to profit is reasonably small. That is, you can't wait an egregious amount of time, invest an ungodly amount of money, or accept an unholy amount of risk to make an investment as an individual or company. Moreover, a company is less concerned with the net benefits of an investment but rather the benefits to the company.

This is essentially why government investment is and will always be an important part of making our society at the very least livable, and more optimistically interesting, humane, stimulating, and exciting.
posted by cman at 2:10 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok. Whoa Check this one out. The earth is like a living organism man. Like so if it is a living organism it like needs to reproduce before it dies. What if we are like it's sperm and eggs man. Like a specially developed sub organism that is capable of leaving the host organism and finding another suitable reproduction site to allow the earth to like have a baby man. Whoa.

We have a moral duty to the earth to colonize other planets with life. It is quite possibly why we exist.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:17 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend who works at NASA Marshall tells me that you CAN donate to NASA: "It goes into a trust fund that projects propose to. You can't give to a specific program or project." Details (4-page pdf).

That's good to know, although it sounds more bureaucratic than I would like.
posted by lukemeister at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2012


So what's more efficient than single-minded democracies? Say it with me now: Markets!

>Cough!< bullshit!

The need for profit necessarily makes private enterprise less efficient. It's mathematically provable.

We've had well over 30 years now of private sector interests deliberately complicating and muddling around with our political processes as much as possible to foster this bullshit impression. But private sector bureacracy is just as formidable and wasteful (as anyone who's ever had a service problem they needed help from a major corporation to resolve knows).

And the fact is the private sector often gets to look more efficient by parasitically exploiting gains and developments made by public investment (like the internet, the postal system, the highway systems, and the list goes on an on), but if they were ever forced to compete on completely even footing, without any hidden public subsidies or the benefits of publicly funded development and research, no-way, no-how the private sector could even come close. They have to introduce economic inefficiency into their operations in order to extract profit--that's basic economics, as successfully obfuscated as that point has been over the last few decades thanks to the concerted efforts of armies of private-sector funded "think-tanks" that are anything but.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


And the fact is, the US government did land a man on the moon in less than a decade. The private sector has been working on figuring out a way just to get us into low-earth orbit for about the same length of time now and they haven't really even achieved that.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:23 AM on March 9, 2012


And lastly, I take part of Tyson's point to be that, by making a concerted effort to get the public sector making big strides in space again, we could help restore faith in the US republic itself as a viable tool for furthering the public good. So to say "the markets can do it better" misses the point entirely. (This is all in response to lukemeister's comment up here, btw.)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the fact is, the US government did land a man on the moon in less than a decade. The private sector has been working on figuring out a way just to get us into low-earth orbit for about the same length of time now and they haven't really even achieved that.

That's because of all the government regulations holding them back. /hamburger
posted by inigo2 at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2012


To the stars. We should be going to the stars.
posted by bastionofsanity at 2:34 PM on March 9, 2012


Most people can't get behind the scientific merit of space exploration simply because they don't understand the science (and you can't blame them, it's all pretty complex) and because it doesn't have applicability to their lives (like "Beat the Reds!" did).

When possible, people seem to actively avoid learning about science, because it presents them with a series of unpleasant facts. For example, I would have thought NASA's observations about climate change would be pretty much believable to the American public, if nothing else because they're rocket scientists, but more because they have a big, positive public profile. But no -- they're "activists" with a political agenda., and part of the conspiracy. What?

At least here in Canada we're dealing with these issues by gutting monitoring programs and defunding research. We won't have to listen to those whining scientists much longer.
posted by sneebler at 7:31 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


TYSON STOMP FUTURE.
posted by runcibleshaw at 6:15 PM on March 10, 2012


Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine, "What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?"

This is his answer.
posted by netbros at 5:16 PM on March 12, 2012


We are stardust, we are golden, we are million year old carbon...

More like billions, eh?
posted by snsranch at 6:58 PM on March 12, 2012


And the fact is, the US government did land a man on the moon in less than a decade.

The US government supplied the goal and the money, a lot of the private industry figured out the nuts and bolts. This is me being RAH RAH private industry, but they should get credit where credit is due.

As a US citizen, I would like to see NASA's budget doubled or tripled in order to build a moon base and send probes to every damn planet and its moon for one reason. At this point the country hasn't focused on a national positive goal in a while. We've spent the last decade fighting various wars. We should spend a decade or two reminding the ourselves and the world that we can do extraordinary things that don't involved waging wars.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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