We had one more question last night for astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and we ran out of time before we could ask it. We wanted to know his thoughts on President Obama's new agenda for NASA. Obama's new budget calls for NASA to stop trying to return to the moon and to privatize space travel for humans and cargo.
Tyson, who 10 years ago stripped Pluto of its status as a planet, says he likes the new plan. Tyson argues that NASA needs far greater ambitions than repeating decades-old missions in orbital space. NASA has been to the moon already, he argues, and it's time for greater ambitions that shuttling people around. If the U.S. hands orbital travel to private companies, then that means orbital travel is no longer a frontier. What NASA needs is steady funding for big science, Tyson tell us. His words have stuck with me all day:
"I tell you, NASA is a force of nature. They're like no other agency. When NASA dreams big, the country dreams big, and when the country dreams big, kids dream big. It attracts the kid biologists, the kid engineers, the kid chemists. It gets them in the pipeline, because it's worthy of their ambitions and their intellect. These are the people who make tomorrow come, who make the tomorrow we want to see."
Tyson's new documentary, The Pluto Files, airs at 8 o'clock Eastern tonight on PBS.