Recently, I had the opportunity to view part of an address that Neil deGrasse Tyson gave to students at the University at Buffalo this past March. Tyson is a well-known American astrophysicist who has hosted PBS’s popular educational show NOVA since 2006. He was asked how he felt about the recent changes to the American space program. Tyson had a bit to say about this subject.
His words really struck a chord with me. In essence he is saying that when we stop dreaming, or looking forward to the future we will be left by those that do still have the ability to dream and to look forward. He goes on to say that NASA embodies this notion with its entire being. It is an underfunded program that has always pushed the envelope of knowledge and technology. It seems the powers that be have decided that the extent of pushing the frontier stops with going to near Earth orbit.
Many years ago there was a movie that came out called the Neverending Story. The premise of that movie was that a great “Nothing” was gobbling up the entire world. It was a world created by everyone’s dreams. The underlying message of the movie was that once people stopped dreaming, they were easier to control.
There is something horrible going on with our country now. We are so focused on short-term solutions, and how much things cost, that we are forgetting the long-term benefit of dreaming the big dreams. When we stop shooting for the big goals, like going to the Moon, and Mars, we start letting the smaller dreams slide too. Once we start down that slippery slope, I fear that returning to those bigger ambitions as a country will become harder and harder. We will watch on the sidelines as we are passed by some other country that has the want, and raw will that somehow we lost almost thirty years ago when Americans left the moon for the last time.
I believe what is going on with NASA right now is a warning sign that all of us would do well not to ignore. The “Nothing” is knocking on the door.
- The passionate scientist: Doing Q&A like Neil deGrasse Tyson (presentationzen.com)
- Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Since When Is He a Literary Rock Star? [Critical Stalker] (gawker.com)
- OpenLuna Picks Up Where NASA’s Moon Mission Leaves Off (ostatic.com)