Review of Space Chronicles
By Neil deGrasse Tyson
I’ve made it no secret that I love this guy. I dare someone to read this book or to listen to his podcast or watch any number of clips featuring Dr. Tyson and not get pumped up about science! He has a way of simultaneously communicating his enthusiasm regarding his discipline as well as his message that makes the information easy for anyone to digest.
I don’t know that my one sentence summary will do any justice here, but the primary message of the book is as follows: Without science [in this case NASA/space exploration] we fail. That is perhaps the lowest common denominator, at least my interpretation. Of course, he’s written a book based on that message so he goes a wee bit deeper than that.
We’re at a very interesting point in history, on many fronts. Personally, I would call it a tipping point, where if we continue down these paths we will eventually fail, sooner rather than later. And what’s sad is that on a majority of these factors, trends are negative. Our health, our education, our food, our economy, etc. Science is yet another element where we [the U.S. primarily] have completely fallen off the grid. Religion has taken hold in our schools and as a result the sciences have become political fodder.
One fact that’s harder for me to come to grips with is that most technological innovations and virtually all explorations can trace their origin to military, wartime, and government funded programs (not necessarily simultaneously, however). Think about it. The argument is that private enterprise can and will completely replace anything the government currently, or has supported. History has proven that is actually not true and there’s nothing to say it would change. As Dr. Tyson puts it, no corporation, no private entity will take the necessary measures, using space exploration as an example, with unmitigated risks. He says it’s expensive, it’s dangerous, with unknown risks virtually making the space frontier unmarketable.
Of course, I’m not advocating for more government; only submitting to the facts of history. That said, I would support increasing the NASA budget twenty-fold if that meant an equal cut from some other federal boondoggle. Do you know that the total NASA’s budgets for it’s entire existence (1958) is less than two years of Dept of Defense spending?
Chapter 30 is perhaps ten of the better pages I’ve read in any book. Dr. Tyson drops the gloves and goes bare-knuckle style on everything from religion, to government, to budgets. In it’s entirety, Space Chronicles is a non-partisan, objective look at how things are and how they sadly will be unless we realize the priority that emphasis on science and the space frontier should have. Needless to say, I highly recommend the read.