Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of today’s foremost science personalities, addresses the total halt of innovation on NASA’s part and what it means for the nation. He is an epic man, and delivers an equally epic response to the question of the implications that NASA’s underfunding has for the United States as a nation.
For the better part of the Cold War, NASA was an inspirational agency, “the most powerful…on the dreams of a nation.” But the wonder is gone. NASA’s focus on ‘low-earth orbit’ missions misses the point, which is to push the boundaries – and frontiers – of human knowledge, a concept lost in the age of incremental, short-term planning. Agencies like the NSF and NIH, for all the good research they do, do not arouse the same feelings of wonder and imagination that NASA adventures of old did.
Much like foreign aid, estimates of what kind of percentage of the budget NASA receives are wildly overinflated. “I ask people…they say five cents, ten cents on a dollar – it’s half a penny!” There’s no boldly going anywhere anymore, even if our initial knowledge of the greenhouse effect came from studying Venus. Even if understanding the cosmos helps us to conceptualize developments at a subatomic scale here on Earth. We’re looking down when we should be looking up.
“Nobody’s dreaming about tomorrow anymore.” All too true.