Saturday, July 21, 2012

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know...That We Have Stopped Dreaming

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know...That We Have Stopped Dreaming

I must start by saying that the title is kind of stolen from a concept put forward by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson in his book the Space Chronicles and his testimonies before the Senate about the downsizing of the United States space program. I am going to elaborate more and give my own ideas, but if college has taught me anything I must give credit where credit is due. In this case I am honored to give credit to Dr. Tyson because he is a brilliant man and I recommend reading, watching, listening to his words across platforms.

I had the idea to write this because yesterday came and went without so much as anyone commenting on Facebook about the significance of July 20th. Now of course I must acknowledge the tragic massacre that happened in Colorado, and I would not expect such a tragedy to not be reported. Still I have the feeling that The Dark Knight Rises would have upstaged the historic event anyway. For those of you who still don't know what I am talking about, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, an incredible achievement that has yet to be matched. The idea that men went from learning how to fly, to landing on another world in the same century is truly a magnificent achievement for the human race. 

Most of the information and ideas I am about to repeat can be found in Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's book the Space Chronicles or if you don't want to read the book, this video sums it up perfectly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbIZU8cQWXc.

Let me start from the beginning, way back in the 1960's we were fighting a cold war with the Soviet Union. This Cold war was undoubtedly about who was better and who could produce the most awesome stuff. I am over simplifying the Cold War and I know I will be criticized for that but hey this is a blog and I am not going to sum up the entire Cold War in a post. Anyway the Soviet Union sent up Sputnik, a small communications satellite that transmitted a very simple radio signal. This scared the United States. The Russians were getting ahead of us and while they were sending up satellites, we didn't even have a space program ready. So NASA gets founded based solely on the fact that we needed to be better than the Russians.

We land on the moon on July 20th 1969, far surpassing the Russians in every way and now it was no longer the moon. We had the moon, so everyone thought we would be going to Mars and then, once we went there, the universe was the limit. But everyone forgot why we got to the moon in the first place. We needed to be better than the Russians, and once we proved that, people began to lose interest. Everyone also forgets that the entirety of the 1960's united us into thinking about one thing, the future and dreaming about tomorrow. A space age, cars, houses, food, etc. Astronauts were heroes, an entire generation of physicists, computer programmers, and engineers were inspired by man landing on the moon. These are the people who have given us the "world of tomorrow": the iPads, phones, tablets, apps, computers, etc. The people who witnessed that magnificent event were inspired by the potential and ideas and acted on them. Without ideas for tomorrow or anything to be inspired by, what are we as a society today? 

In my lifetime there has been no inspirational event to unite us all to believe in the future. My lifetime has been full of war, death, destruction, terrorism, economic crisis, and debt. We have stopped dreaming about the future. When everyone was looking into the sky a few months ago to watch the space shuttle Enterprise land at JFK, I think I was the only one truly disappointed. I saw it as the end of an era, the end of dreaming about the universe and the potential of the human race. NASA has no foreseeable future plans because the NASA budget has taken the biggest hit in its history. We no longer have a launch vehicle to get to the multi billion dollar space station THAT WE BUILT!!! What's even sadder is that in 1974 we were expecting to be walking on Mars before 1990, today the expectation is 2050 and that's if NASA gets a budget and starts working on it heavily right now. 

What have we got to inspire us today? The most recent episode of Glee? Justin Bieber? The Jersey Shore? There is nothing about the present or future of the United States I am inspired by. We have nothing to look forward to and no prospects. The space program has given us so much in terms of advancements, ideas, technology, and dreams. It is my humble opinion that if we were to rejuvenate the space program and make it even better than it was, we could just possibly crawl out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. We could become respected again, not for the wars and money we can spend, but the things we can actually achieve like landing on the moon. 

“But Sal,” you say, “we have problems down here, we can't be spending our money up in space?” WRONG!!!! Again, I must yield to the knowledge of Dr. Tyson. The NASA budget was/is four tenths of one penny. If you were to hold up a dollar bill and cut four tenths of one penny off of a tax dollar you would cut off a strip so thin you wouldn't even come close to the ink on the bill. The excuse that "we cannot afford it" is unacceptable. The 850 billion dollar bank bailout is greater then the entire 50 year running budget of NASA. So when you say that we cannot afford the space program, it's not that we don't have the money, your concept of the money the space program is spending is warped. 

By removing the space program, you are removing the pure essence of the things dreams are made of. You are removing the fact that ideas have always moved this country forward, and it is no coincidence that the biggest and fastest advancements of technology in human history have been after we sent a man to the moon. What scares me the most is that by ending the space program, we have stopped dreaming. We have stopped looking to the future and we risk remaining stagnant for almost an entire generation. 


If we make NASA's budget an entire penny per tax dollar. That would be more than enough to get us to Mars soon, enough to get us back to the moon and create commuter space flights to asteroids and beyond our solar system. More importantly, you create heroes, not people who are admired for how drunk they can get at the Jersey Shore or sing about how much it sucks breaking up at 13 years old. By advancing the NASA budget, you will create heroes who are admired because of their abilities to inspire dreams that will launch us into the universe. Children will dream about becoming astronauts, astrophysicists, engineers, and the like, and actually contribute to society more then tweeting idiotic celebrity news and kicking ass in Call of Duty. 

“Nobody’s dreaming about tomorrow anymore. The most powerful agency on the dreams of a nation is currently underfunded to do what it needs to do — and that’s to make dreams come true. How much would you pay for the Universe?” -Neil deGrasse Tyson

Written by: Salvatore Pezzino Jr.
Edited by: Julius Motal

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