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RS05 - Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Need For a Space Program

Release date: March 28, 2010


Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson joins Massimo and Julia to discuss the need for a space program. Many scientists (and most people in the skeptic community) simply assume that funding outlets like NASA are a good idea. But, can scientists justify the enormous expense involved, not just in terms of their personal curiosity, but as a matter of tangible and intangible benefits to society at large? Should we go back to the Moon and establish a permanent base? Is it worth the expense and likely risk to human life to attempt a mission to Mars? What is a space station for, anyway?

Dr. Tyson is an astrophysicist by training and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. He is also the host of PBS's science NOW. His latest book is “The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet.”

Comment on the episode teaser.

Dr. Tyson's surprising "un-pick": The movie Avatar

Reader Comments (7)

Some comments:

1) The guest talked about manned space flight, and at one point said it cost 20-50 times as much as unmanned space flight to do the same science. So why have manned space flight? He said we could get to Mars in 12 months if China leaked a memo about building military bases on Mars - but if he made a case about why we should get humans onto Mars, I missed it.

2) Given that people only fund huge projects for religious/authoritarian/military/economic reasons, how did CERN secure so much funding? My POV is that it's for the religious cause called European Integration

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAgagooga

Sorry to be indulging in thread necrophilia, but I just listened to this podcast. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but there was one question left unasked and I'd really like to hear the it. Toward the end, Neil said he didn't have an elevator pitch for why it was worth spending big dollars to go to Mars, but he did have a three-minute pitch.

I got some sense of it from earlier in the podcast, when he talked about why he preferred going to Mars to going (back) to the Moon. But I'd really like to hear the pitch. So, (a) please have him back to do another podcast, (b) ask him to phone it in (no, really!) and post it as an Rationally Speaking podcast extra, or failing both of those, (c) perhaps someone could point me to a place where he made this pitch elsewhere. I'd very much appreciate it.

February 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbjkeefe

Yes, please! I would love to hear his three minute talk!!

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren ELbuam
Very Entertaining. Had some good laughs in this one. =])
August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErnesto
I understood all the science part of it but where is the philosophy? I thought we would talk about the philosophy of spending huge amount of money on space programs compared to spending money on applied sciences?
March 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDeepali Barapatre
Skeptic community, my ass.

So many "skeptics" accept Neil's claims without question. Even when they're highly questionable or even demonstrably false. Tyson fans paying lip service to skepticism is like adulterous Republicans singing the praises of family values.

NASA's budget has been slowly declining. Evidently Tyson's arguments are having little effect on policy makers.
November 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHop David
Neil deGrasse Tyson is really kool.

Crewed exploration of Mars will cost far too much and put astronauts at terrible risk. We should just continue with rovers, telescopes, and spacecraft. With a multitude of drones and drones, we can accomplish much more than a single crewed mission.
February 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

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