Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a great point in this video (and others) about how the space race was such a driving force in our culture and how it paid dividends far beyond the ability to put a man on the moon.
We’ve heard these arguments before, usually in regards to products or technologies that were discovered or advanced because of the immediate needs of NASA. Plastics, Velcro, miniaturization, Tang, are all listed as byproducts of these programs.
Tyson takes a larger view on the impact the space race had on the imagination of the country and how this drive influenced an entire generation of scientists and engineers that eventually went on to create all sorts of products that had nothing to do with space. It’s not a new point, but rarely has it been made with such passion, and at one point in this short video you can hear whatever crowd Tyson is speaking to get very excited as he starts getting angry talking about the stupid arguments against NASA funding. He’s fun to listen to.
Usually these kinds of posts are snarkologist’s domain, but I just loved this video so much.
Tyson makes the point that the space race was probably only able to acquire its funding because of fear of the Soviets. Would we have landed on the moon if the Russians had never launched Sputnik? Would we have had the explosive growth of innovation? It’s a sobering thought.
The space race had such a huge impact on our entire culture, our civilization, and the technology we use. It came about because the government set a high-end goal and allocated resources to meet that goal, and then market forces responded to that imposed reality. It’s a kind of technological Keynesianism. It’s a reminder of the power that our government, the collective will of us as a people, can wield to improve our lives and our future.
I would hope that we could see the benefits to this kind of vision even without an existential threat.