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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why has America stopped reaching for the stars?


In the mid-’60s, 4 percent of tax revenue flowed to NASA. Today, that number is one-half of 1 percent. Space travel inspires us to dream about tomorrow, says Neil deGrasse Tyson. So why did we give up?

I study the universe for a living. I’ve served on two presidential commissions that studied space exploration, but at heart I’m an academic. Being an academic means I don’t wield power over person, place, or thing. I don’t command armies; I don’t lead labor unions. All I have is the power of thought.

And here’s my thought: As a nation, we need to keep reaching for the stars, to push back our boundaries and stake out new frontiers. Many will ask, “Why are we spending billions of dollars up there in space when we have pressing problems down here on Earth?”

Full essay at The Week.

Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

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  • Anonymous

    I heard Dr. Tyson present this argument on a NOVA program, and I think there is a better way to achieve his objectives of creating a challenge, inspiring people to become scientists, and creating valuable spinoffs. That is setting a goal to make the United States energy independent. What if we could create a system to run trucks and buses on natural gas, improve car batteries for electric cars, make photovoltaic energy price competitive with generated power, reduce the cost of making homes energy efficient, and convert coal into a clean form of energy? Plenty of challenge there. Lots of science needed. Measurable short- and long-range benefits from the new technology.