I grew up fascinated with space travel. Like lots of little kids, I dreamed of heading up in a rocket to outer space and discovering new worlds, but unlike lots of kids, I actually saw this as a real life actuality, not just a dream. My dad (in the photo above looking totally boss) worked with NASA from the late 1980s until 1998. I saw every shuttle in the NASA fleet launch (excepting Challenger, which was destroyed before my dad’s projects began) along with several rockets. I’ve explained over and over again on this site what NASA and the importance of space exploration mean to me, but with the successful landing of Mars Curiosity last week (see here for more info), my love has been reignited.
Unfortunately, as always, the launch of this magnificent project has led many to question NASA and it’s funding. My personal Facebook page was filled with people debating the cost of a project like Curiosity and whether or not it would benefit our country. It’s funny, because I see crappy political arguments on Facebook all the time, and even if they rile me up, I never respond. It’s just not worth the anguish and you never end up getting anywhere positive. But this time, hoo boy, my blood was boiling. I wrote and rewrote responses, which I kept deleting because I knew, unfortunately, rarely can people with uninformed opinions be swayed. So instead I posted this video, with words by the genius astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, which summed it up better than I ever could:
Some of my favorite quotes from this incredible compilation:
“NASA got founded on the fear factor of Sputnik…we got to the moon on that fear factor. Space enthusiasts say ‘Oh, we went to the moon in ’69, we’ll be on Mars in another 10 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 go to the moon, we stopped going to the moon.”
“All of this was focused on enabling people to make tomorrow come. That was a cultural mindset…and we reaped the benefits of economic growth, because you had people who wanted to become scientists and engineers, people who enable tomorrow to exist today.”
“Do you realize that the $850 billion bank bailout, that sum of money, is more than the entire 50 year running budget of NASA?”
“I worry that congress 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.”
“A half a penny, that buys the space station, the space shuttles, the NASA centers, the rovers, the astronauts…all of that. How much would you pay for the universe?”
Want to learn more about science and the space program, but don’t have time to do the research? Follow these people (and Mars rovers) on Twitter! Just another reason to love the Internet.
Neil deGrasse Tyson – Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History. Author: Space Chronicle, The Pluto Files,. Host: StarTalk Radio
Space Camp USA – The official Twitter for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge and NASA’s Official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Space Flight Center
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages many of NASA’s robotic missions exploring Earth, the solar system and our universe.