A powerful question posed by one of the greatest minds of our time, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Earning a PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia, Tyson is now the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He is a brilliant man who has a great passion for space, and has a rare enthusiasm for everything on and off this planet.
Previously commissioned as a member of the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, Tyson is occasionally called to testify before Congress on various space travel and exploration related issues. He believes that, though it began as a reaction to Russia launching a missile, NASA has become so much more. It stands as a beacon of hope for our country and inspires us to look up and out and see something that we could one day reach.
Tyson’s expertise and ability to translate the cosmos into tangible thought invoke my desire to share what I’ve learned. Well that, and the simple fact that space is exquisitely beautiful. I find what goes on out there to be infinitely complex yet simply and quietly amazing.
When we step outside and look up at the sky, we don’t see much anymore. The lights and pollution of cities drown out the beauty of the night sky. I remember looking up and seeing the Milky Way as a child. It was one of the most beautiful things I had seen. I remember staying out late at night for meteor showers and eclipses. I stood in wonder at what happened in the sky, but somehow I lost that wonder.
For some reason I ignored the sky and became obsessed with what happens here on Earth. I stopped taking the time to look up, and bask in true beauty. Looking back, that saddens me greatly.
NASA gave America hope and a reason to look beyond our selves and up at the stars, a reason to dream about tomorrow. We made it to the moon in a relatively short period of time, with computers that had less processing power than the cell phone you use to text friends or play Angry Birds.
More recently, NASA lowered a rover the size of a small SUV on to the surface of Mars, using a crane that hovered over the surface. Read that again, please. If that doesn’t amaze you, then there may be something wrong with your sense of wonder.
NASA has been under-funded as of late, getting less money in the entire history of the program, than the banks received during the bailouts. We have this agency that puts people in space, is on the forefront of technology, but is treated worse than the banks that thrust us into an economic crisis.
With the proper funding, NASA could be well on its way to sending a manned mission to Mars in the next decade. Setting up a permanent outpost on another planet, possibly even discovering life on another planet, or more likely, another planet’s moon.
NASA shows us what our future could be, what we could be doing in five to ten years. We need NASA to push science and technology forward, to instill in us a sense of wonder again.
We need one of those moments that brings us all together again: sitting around our HDTV’s watching man take his first steps on Mars.
Cameron Simek is the Opinions editor for the UVU Review at Utah Valley University. He can be reached at [email protected], and on twitter @Skabomb. www.uvureview.com