Author has written 40 stories for Batman Begins/Dark Knight, House, M.D., Twilight, and Glee.
Here's what happened:
In the 1960s, we were at war with the Soviet Union -- the Cold War -- and a little bit of a Hot War over in Southeast 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 traveler" - that's all very peaceful - but it was a ballistic missile head, without explosives. That was a signal, and we freaked in America. So, NASA got founded on the fear factor of Sputnik.
We then go to the Moon on the fear factor that Russia will control high ground. Then, we go to the Moon and 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 war, it galvanized us all to dream about tomorrow. To think about the homes of tomorrow, cities of tomorrow, 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 that 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're not a scientist or technologist, you will value that activity, and that in the 21st century is the foundation of tomorrow's economies, and without it we might as well just slide back into the caves because that's where we're headed right now - BROKE.
I'm tired of saying this, but I have to say it again! The NASA budget is four tenths of one penny on a tax dollar. If I held up the tax dollar, and cut horizontally into it four tenths of one percent of its width, it doesn't 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 fifty-year running budget of NASA? And so when someone says "We don't have enough money for this space program," I'm saying that "No, it's not that you don't have enough money. It's that the distribution of the money that you're spending is warped in some way that you're removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow. The home of tomorrow, city of tomorrow, transportation of tomorrow - all that ended in the 1970s.
After we stopped going to the Moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming.
And so I worry that the decisions that Congress makes doesn't factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. 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. Tomorrow's gone.
If you double NASA's budget, up to half a penny on a dollar-- Go ahead, make it a penny, be bold. That would be enough to go to Mars soon, and with people, and go back to the Moon and on to 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. There's 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're the ones who 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 any more. The most powerful agency are the dreams of a nation, and it's currently underfunded to do what it needs to be doing, which is making dreams come true.
How much would you pay for the Universe?
--Neil Degrasse Tyson