It’s not often that I would post video of an interview with an astrophysicist here on UPROXX, but not every astrophysicist is Neil deGrasse Tyson — the man is a meme after all — and not every interviewer is Jon Stewart. Tyson was a goddamn intellectual tank last night, passionately and eloquently laying out the argument for why America’s space program is important.
“In the 1960’s, we were at war with the Soviet Union. Cold War, and a little bit of hot war over in Southeast Asia. So, we feared them because they put up Sputnik — which, by the way, people forget was an emptied-out casing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. …So they put in a little device that goes ‘beep beep,’ and ‘Sputnik’ itself means ‘fellow traveler,’ so it’s all peaceful — but it was a ballistic missile head without explosives. So that was a signal, and we freaked in America. So NASA got founded on the fear factor of Sputnik.
All right. So, we then go to the Moon on the fear factor that Russia will control high ground. Then we go to the Moon. 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.
…Meanwhile, however, that entire era galvanized the nation… It galvanized us all to dream about tomorrow. To think about the homes of tomorrow; the cities of tomorrow; the food of tomorrow. Everything was Futureworld, Futureland. The World’s Fair — all this was focused on enabling people to make tomorrow come. That was a cultural mindset that the space program brought upon us, and we reap 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…So today, I’d rather not war be the driver, but it could happen! If China wants to put a military base on the Moon, we’ll be there in two years!”
HOT DAMN LET’S GO TO FREAKIN’ MARS!!!
Ed. Note: My apologies about the problems with the Daily Show video embed. There’s something wrong on their end as all their players seem to be down now. So I found the clip on Hulu and embedded it above instead.
(Transcription via In Other News)