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

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Comments (22)
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  • 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.

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