Neil deGrasse Tyson: ‘How Much Would You Pay for the Universe?’

“Nobody’s dream­ing about tomor­row any­more,” says astro­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson in this com­pelling lit­tle video on the decline of the Amer­i­can space pro­gram. “After we stopped going to the moon, it all end­ed. We stopped dream­ing.” The video was put togeth­er by Evan Schurr with mate­r­i­al from var­i­ous sources. In it, Tyson asks us to imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties for tomor­row if NASA’s bud­get were increased to just one pen­ny for every tax dol­lar. It’s a point he raised ear­li­er this month before a U.S. Sen­ate com­mit­tee (read the full tes­ti­mo­ny here), when he said:

The 2008 bank bailout of $750 bil­lion was greater than all the mon­ey NASA had received in its half-cen­tu­ry his­to­ry; two years’ U.S. mil­i­tary spend­ing exceeds it as well. Right now, NASA’s annu­al bud­get is half a pen­ny on your tax dol­lar. For twice that–a pen­ny on a dollar–we can trans­form the coun­try from a sullen, dispir­it­ed nation, weary of eco­nom­ic strug­gle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th cen­tu­ry birthright to dream of tomor­row.

via The Dai­ly Beast

by | Permalink | Comments (22) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (22)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Anoth­er inspir­ing video; thanks!

  • Liane says:

    Mar­velous… we need more of him.

  • Al Brown says:

    In case Mr. Tyson has­n’t noticed, we have a huge debt and what he pro­pos­es costs more than half a pen­ny.

    If peo­ple real­ly val­ue some­thing, let them come up with the mon­ey to pay for it. And let them reap the ben­e­fits.

    It makes no sense to coerce those who val­ue invest­ing in oth­er things to invest it what you per­son­al­ly favor. If oth­ers remain uncon­vinced of the val­ue of an invest­ment, per­haps the invest­ment has not EARNED their funds either.

  • bubba says:

    End the wars and then we might be able to fund these kind of things. Until then we can’t even pro­vide health­care for peo­ple, if u get sick, too bad, go into debt. That’s todays atti­tude.

  • Juil says:

    It’s not dif­fi­cult to under­stand why politi­cians are against pro­grams like NASA, but it is still painful to watch the the­ater reel­ing in it’s own feces.
    It’s a free mar­ket econ­o­my. If the gov­ern­ment isn’t will­ing to invest in tech­nol­o­gy and inno­va­tion, some­one else should. Would an enter­pris­ing soul please step up to the podi­um?!

  • Chris says:

    WTF is a pen­ny?

  • luigi says:

    “How much would you pay for the Uni­verse?”

    What a daft ques­tion and dafter answer! We don’t GET the Uni­verse by dou­bling Nasa’s bud­get!

    This is a clas­sic case of “anchor­ing”. The speak­er is propos­ing dou­bling the bud­get, not because $36 bil­lion is some mag­ic num­ber (there are no quan­ti­ta­tive rea­sons pre­sent­ed why it needs to be at that lev­el), but because it’s cur­rent­ly $18 bil­lion.

    From what he’s say­ing, Nasa is not achiev­ing its objec­tives of inspir­ing new gen­er­a­tions of sci­en­tists and engi­neers, even with 18,000,000,000 dol­lars, a col­los­sal amount of mon­ey, 0.5% of the whole tax bud­get being spent on it. Giv­en the prin­ci­pal of dimin­ish­ing returns, this sounds like a great argu­ment for slash­ing the bud­get and tar­get­ting more inspir­ing great projects, such as vast hydro­elec­tric dams, nuclear fusion, deep ocean explo­ration, a mobile phone bat­tery that lasts more than a day… or some of the futur­is­tic tech­nolo­gies that peo­ple were real­ly dream­ing about in the 60s and 70s that every­one can access — the “cities and trans­port of tomor­row” that are men­tioned (not moon bases).

    The speak­er makes a good point that the space pro­gram of the 60s was pro­pelled by fear of the Sovi­ets. But it was also due to new­ly devel­oped rock­et tech­nol­o­gy, stem­ming from mil­i­tary rock­ets first seen with the Ger­man V2s. Fun­da­men­tal­ly rock­ets are still the same today: there is no new tech­no­log­i­cal dri­ver. And we’ve already been to Mars with the Viking lan­ders; we’ve sent peo­ple to the Moon and found it’s a bar­ren dusty rock with no good rea­son to go back, which is why we haven’t.

    A sci­en­tist myself, I’m all for sci­en­tif­ic / engi­neer­ing megapro­jects. But the manned space pro­gram is a his­tor­i­cal curios­i­ty, not the future. Nasa is not the right tar­get for fund­ing; we need to tar­get new ideas that will real­ly inspire, and will hope­ful­ly be use­ful and com­mer­cial enough to not require huge state sub­sidy.

  • AlonK says:

    “Noth­ing left to dream about?”
    How about dream­ing of a world where every­one goes to bed with food in their belly…drinks clean water..has health care…is safe..Let us dream of that and make it a real­i­ty.

    The mas­ters of war and greed (and the como­to­se pop­u­la­tion) have done such a won­der­ful job on Eart, why not just dupli­cate across the uni­verse?

  • Capt Kirk says:

    Oba­ma was right on this issue by encour­ag­ing pri­va­ti­za­tion of the space pro­gram. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he prob­a­bly does­n’t under­stand why this is a good idea for many oth­er areas of soci­ety.

    Why does the gov­ern­ment need to pick my pock­et and inef­fi­cient­ly under­take this project? (or many oth­ers like edu­ca­tion and health care)

    Vir­gin Galac­tic, SpaceX, XCOR Aero­space and many oth­ers can do this more effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly with­out siphon­ing mon­ey from tax pay­ers.

    I’ll say, “no thanks” to the bleed­ing heart state­ment, “dou­ble my bud­get so we can explore”

  • JeramieH says:

    > But the manned space pro­gram is … not the future

    Because the Earth is a sin­gle point of fail­ure for the entire human exis­tence. We’re one super vol­cano, viral pan­dem­ic, or aster­oid impact away from our extinc­tion. That does­n’t even include the var­i­ous ways we may kill our­selves (war, famine, etc) pri­or to that. All of our eggs are in one bas­ket.

  • Clint says:

    Great videos!I am a founder of and we are post­ing about the pri­va­ti­za­tion of space explo­ration for tomorrow’s top­ic. You should check it out and give your rea­son. It’s a great place to get your voice heard and to hear oth­ers as well. All you have to do is login with your Face­book account and give your rea­son. Thanks.

  • jclark says:

    Thank good­ness there are still peo­ple out there who know that dis­cov­ery and inno­va­tion in one area leads to more inno­va­tion in oth­ers. Go to

    You don’t just solve the prob­lem by work­ing on the prob­lem. You can find it by see­ing news ways to use things too!
    We will find the answer to all those things when we start to dream again!

  • Andre Live says:

    He is advo­cat­ing Sci­ence you dum­mies. And pick­ing a good exam­ple of how a rich coun­try’s pri­or­i­ty are out of whack. You would­n’t have a forum to learn about this and igno­rant­ly com­ment on this pub­licly if sci­ence had­n’t been a pri­or­i­ty among our pre­de­ces­sors.
    The crown­ing achieve­ment of sci­ence could in fact be that we live long enought to have these con­ver­sa­tions, are able to have un-edit­ed log­i­cal dis­course and have real means to do some­thing about human suf­fer­ing thanks this endeavor.…Some of you don’t see the point, in the same way you can’t see your high school or col­lege diplo­ma (because those don’t exist, how­ev­er…).

  • Andre Live says:

    There is mon­ey for this. We have tons of it. It’s just spent on stuff that would be laugh­able or pathet­ic to a cos­mic bystander. Tril­lions of dol­lars allot­ted to pro­tect­ing our­selves from the same species? Because peo­ple are read­ing the wrong books? If we sunk half that bud­get into glob­al and local edu­ca­tion we would erase these prob­lems in decades.…Probably have cures for ener­gy, dis­ease and creduli­ty instead.…

  • Andre Live says:

    “Dum­mies” isn’t intend­ed towards the major­i­ty of peo­ple offer­ing great input on this site!! I’m address­ing the minor­i­ty expres­sions that Neil is delu­sion­al or over sim­pli­fy­ing in a neg­li­gent man­ner.…

  • billy says:

    he bit his ear off

  • MyOpinionIsSoImportantYouGuys says:

    I don’t think any­one is get­ting what’s going on in the video.

    You know space explo­ration (not nec­es­sar­i­ly manned space explo­ration) can lead to many things that ben­e­fit Earth–better bat­ter­ies, bet­ter ways to har­vest solar ener­gy, bet­ter robot­ics, an appre­ci­a­tion of the Earth and its small place in the uni­verse. Per­son­al­ly, I think hav­ing a gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion (as opposed to a for-prof­it firm) tak­ing care of space explo­ration is good because it’s respon­si­ble and focused on ben­e­fit­ting all Amer­i­cans.

    Even if space explo­ration were sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly use­less (and it isn’t), it’s still a part of our cul­ture that makes life worth liv­ing, like art or music or lit­er­a­ture (which are just as “imprac­ti­cal”).

  • Voice from the future says:

    Look up Elon Musk — SpaceX. There are peo­ple who are for­ward thinkers in this world, they do not not always make a lot of noise or brag.

  • BG says:

    I think Neil is amaz­ing but I have to dis­agree with him here.

    We don’t need tremen­dous gov­ern­ment spend­ing on NASA pro­grams — pri­vate com­pa­nies have, and will con­tin­ue, mas­sive spend­ing on tech­no­log­i­cal improve­ment and will go to space as need­ed to chase dol­lars. His asser­tion that cuts to NASA’s bud­get since 1970 have hurt inno­va­tion, is in direct con­flict with the tech­no­log­i­cal won­der of the Android phone that I am using to post my thoughts to world right now.

    We don’t need to burn through tremen­dous amoun­st of ener­gy and resources to send _people_ to Mars — that ener­gy is best left in our own grav­i­ty well for oth­er needs.

    NASA is doing a great job send­ing drones/robots/etc to Mars, which don’t need air/water/food along for the ride.

  • GrantM says:

    To the peo­ple in the com­ments below say­ing we need to focus on world hunger, war, pover­ty, ani­mals… The major­i­ty of the tech­nol­o­gy that enables our civ­i­liza­tion to func­tion like it does today came from or was in some way influ­enced by NASA and or oth­er gov­ern­ment space pro­grams. GPS, Inter­net, glob­al map­ping, agri­cul­ture map­ping which has led to an increased sup­ply of food mak­ing it cheap­er than ever before, com­mu­ni­ca­tion advances, solar pow­er, MRI, and count­less oth­er advances in fields unre­lat­ed to space and space explo­ration. One thing that will come direct­ly from space, is a bet­ter under­stand­ing on a glob­al scale of where and who we as a species rotat­ing around our sun at 108,000 km/hr on an organ­ic space­ship we call plan­et Earth. That knowl­edge will assure in a greater accep­tance of our species dif­fer­ances and a grow­ing appre­ci­a­tion for our many sim­i­lar­i­ties. Expand­ing a space fron­tier might not ben­e­fit us imme­di­ate­ly, but space is an invest­ment for our future and our chil­dren’s future.

  • GrantM says:

    and pri­vate com­pa­nies can only advance in space as far as gov­ern­ment space pro­grams advance before them. There is no busi­ness mod­el for a com­pa­ny whose quar­ter­ly reports could pos­si­ble have and most like­ly will have the com­plete fail­ure off mis­sions cou­pled with the loss of human life and hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in loss­es. Pri­vate indus­try comes into space only after gov­ern­ment fund­ed pro­grams pave a safe and effi­cient path. Side not, Vir­gin­Galac­tic is only going into sub orbital space flight, that means they are not even escap­ing the grav­i­ta­tion­al pull of earth. Their “space­craft” can turn off the engines and glide back down to earth. Most of NASA’s bud­get goes to pri­vate and uni­ver­si­ty research any­way, such com­pa­nies as Lock­heed Mar­tin and Boe­ing.

  • Mitchell says:

    The pri­vate sec­tor will nev­er, ever have the will or courage to pur­sue space trav­el out­side of lob­bing satel­lites into low orbit. For-Prof­it orga­ni­za­tions very rarely dip toes out­side their com­fort zone. Any research would slow to a crawl as com­pa­nies patent and clas­si­fy every­thing they learn, and con­duct law­suits against any­one who comes up with sim­i­lar ideas. They don’t prof­it from shar­ing.

    There’s a rea­son Elon Musk (SpaceX and Tes­la founder) released his patents to the pub­lic sec­tor: the pri­vate sec­tor can no longer hold back elec­tric vehi­cles by squat­ting the patents and screw­ing with sup­ply, over-pric­ing, or delib­er­ate­ly shelv­ing projects because it would inter­fere with prof­its.

    It is through the achieve­ments of the pub­lic sec­tor that suc­cess­ful­ly con­duct­ed megapro­jects and break­throughs, either by doing things them­selves or giv­ing pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions a nice finan­cial cush­ion to grow some balls and actu­al­ly risk fail­ure to unlock great things.

    I shud­der to think of a world run by near-sight­ed indus­try lead­ers who pan­der to share­hold­ers and are inca­pable of think­ing beyond the next fis­cal quar­ter.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.