Recently I watched Neil deGrasse Tyson hold a discussion at the New York Museum (03/15/2012) on the future of NASA through his book “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.” For a supposedly “forward thinker” his views on NASA and future space development have a decidedly rearward and reactionary view.
Normally, I enjoy the talks and presentations of Neil deGrasse Tyson on space. He is an accomplished astrophysicist who has successfully turned his background into popular entertainment; something not easy for most any scientist to do. And it’s something important to help keep science in front of the People in a very unscientific population.
Recently I watched a talk that he gave on the future of space development at the New York Museum. He seemed to be quite on track with most of his points on what was wrong with the NASA programs and why we were falling behind in ongoing space development. However, when he reached his conclusion point, he flew completely off the rails and never came back.
He admits he’s a liberal and always has been, being born and raised in New York where one is, “lucky if they can spot a Republican once a day.” He cites and credits the government as being a key part of his success in obtaining and pursuing his academic career. During his discussion on his new book, “Space Chronicles,” he pointed out that there were only two ways we got into space and will stay in space: It’s the same way throughout history. Virtually all initial exploration at the edges of the frontiers and more recently much science has occurred only through either; 1) pushing some form of a military agenda or 2) finding some way to make it pay. Everything else used to support space development he termed “delusional.”
I think he’s exactly right and is the view I’ve held for the last 30 years. Every other justification but those two, given for the advancement of the real frontiers of exploration, may sound good but in the end is delusional. Ultimately, the only reason most of the riskiest and most dangerous expeditions to the edge of the Frontiers were mounted was for military purposes or to find riches or resources for the government to seize.
Then he fell off his own thought train. His conclusion is that the only way to continue Manned (or any other) Space Development was by having the government run it —
forever. But then, he didn’t say that it was to be a military program or just a research program. And he immediately ignored the 2nd half of his own thesis; that making it pay was the other best way to do it. It also contradicts recent history, fresh in mind, with the winding down of the manned space program-because there’s just no funding! It is axiomatic that nothing can become sustainable without it being privatized and made profitable. It shouldn’t even be debatable.
One would think a smart guy like Tyson would see the immediate non-sequitur he drew with his conclusion. However with liberals, no matter how intelligent, emotions seem to always override all rational thought in the vicinity. Tyson’s contention that no profit-making endeavor would ever support the long term development of space bears out nowhere in history.
Yes, governments initially supported most of the initial exploration and discovery around the world. However, immediately after government-sponsored explorers like Columbus and Magellan, next came the Trappers, Mountain Men, Traders and Adventurers that fully explore and open the newly discovered lands. It was the Hudson Bay Company that opened up most of Canada and the Northwest. It was the Trappers, Mountain Men, Traders and Miners that opened up the west following Lewis and Clark. The farmers, merchants and the rest of civilization then followed the others.
It’s sad, really, that such smart people remain trapped in perverse and un-natural modes of thought and perceptions, against all the evidence, demonstrated over and over again. The internet is the most recent, best example. In the 15 years between 1969 and 1984, before it began privatization, the URA and ARPA-based Internet project had grown to about 2000 total switching nodes and a few thousand end-computer/workstation connections. In the next 15 years, between 1985 and 2000, the total number of switching nodes grew exponentially to over 170 million with several hundred million connected users and computing platforms. Today it has doubled that. Emergent systems, such as the world-wide web, would have never “gone global” in government R&D or usage without the privatization.
It’s a good thing that NASA funding has finally broken down (with a lot more funding breakdowns to come) so that private space development will get the attention. It will finally allow private efforts such as Virgin Galactic, Space X and XCOR to get fully off the ground and get the private funding to soar towards the stars. And with primary features that no government project has, including; profitable, cost-effective, productive, growing and most importantly, sustainable for the long-term. Long live private enterprise!