He argues that by increasing space exploration and tackling the truly inspiring missions – going back to the Moon, to Mars or an asteroid – we can inspire a new generation of STEM graduates and stimulate the economy to boot. I would argue that we get a whole lot of soft power in the bargain – America’s greatest strength has always been our ability to persuade and influence the world. By taking on these challenges, we build new technologies and projects that stimulate the economy in ways similar to the defense industry, but in a way that brings people into our camp and onto our side.
The video at the Daily Show is absolutely worth a few minutes of your time – and I agree with Jon Stewart when he argues for a deGrasse Tyson Presidency. We haven’t had a whole lot of luck with politicians, and I’m not sure Wall Street tycoon is a better alternative, but I think a physicist could get a hell of a lot done.
My favorite quote, I think it was Antoine Saint-Exupery who said, “If you want to teach someone to sail, you don’t train them how to build a boat. You compel them to long for the open seas.” That longing drives our urge to innovate, and space exploration has the power to do that, especially when it’s a moving frontier because all traditional sciences are there. And so you’ll get the best students, they’ll have a place to land, and you’ll change the attitude that our culture has to the role of science, engineering, technology, and math on our future.
To make any future that we dreamt up real requires creative scientists, engineers, and technologists to make it happen. If people are not within your midst who dream about tomorrow — with the capacity to bring tomorrow into the present — then the country might as well just recede back into the cave because that’s where we’re headed.