Neil deGrasse Tyson: Sputnik Moment

In Space Chronicles, Neil deGrasse Tyson describes how the Soviet Union was a catalyst for the U.S. space program, and China might be considered a similar catalyst today (http://goo.gl/fzGtH).

Transcript--

When the president, President Obama, mentioned the Sputnik moment, seeing that we are losing a competitive edge to the Chinese and others, said, "This is a new Sputnik moment" and then he gave a list of things we should do, which included like higher speed Internet and light rail. I'm thinking, no, no. Energy independence, that's not a Sputnik moment. We should have those things anyway. Sputnik moments, you reserve those for grand visions that take your mind, body and soul to places that no one had previously dreamed. Sputnik moments are occasions where you invent tomorrow.

I'm not old enough to remember 1957 but there's certainly plenty of people among us who do. And when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik that was a Sputnik moment. This was our sworn enemy, the communists. And we had our own state of self-assessment that we were technologically proficient, you know, we won the war. Our manufacturing was back in place and here's this country that we were telling the whole world that we were better than they were in every way that mattered and, bam, out comes a satellite.

Our response was we created NASA; first we went berserk then we created NASA a year later. We redoubled our efforts in science and technology and engineering. And that would shape the identity of the United States from the end of the 1950s through the 1970s.

The Sputnicity of that moment I think comes from the fact, whether or not the public knew this, the military folks knew it, that Sputnik was a hollowed out intercontinental ballistic missile shell. They took out the warhead and put in a radio transmitter that went beep, beep. The military folks knew that if they could put a radio transmitter in a ballistic missile shell and fly it over our heads that they have the new higher ground.

So in that case the Sputnik moment was a military one. And it was clear that technology and science would be what would enable nations to take the lead and the high ground.

Right now we're, we in America, we're sort of slowing down, or maybe everyone else is just speeding up but the effect is we've lost our edge. We've lost our leadership position.

When President Obama said, "In a Sputnik moment, in fact we will rejuvenate the space program." The space program in fact is not dead it's just kind of smoldering back there. One of them is we'll be back to Mars in the 2030s, 2030's, maybe as early as the late 2020's. Who's gonna be president? On what budget? So that's a nice thing to listen to in a speech because he's thinking about the future but that's not a future that's actually within reach that anyone can act upon.

I don't like Sputnik moments. I'd rather have been the leader all along. Why do we have to be shocked into being motivated to lead? Why don't we just lead all the time? And maybe that's just unrealistic, maybe that's just not human nature. Maybe we have to feel threatened in order to act.

So yes Sputnik moments work, and if we can't lead all the time, let it be a Sputnik moment that kick starts our heart back beating again. But I can't help but be a little disappointed that we haven't stayed there. That we're going to have to play catch-up if we're gonna catch up at all.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


The Mars Underground

"This film captures the spirit of Mars pioneers who refuse to let their dreams be put on hold by a slumbering space program. Their passionate urge to walk the soil of an alien world is infectious and inspirational. This film is the manifesto of the new space revolution." James Cameron

The Mars Underground - Pioneers for the Next World

Leading aerospace engineer and Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin has a dream. He wants to get humans to the planet Mars in the next ten years.

Now, with the advent of a revolutionary plan, Mars Direct, Dr. Zubrin shows how we can use present day technology and natural resources on Mars to make human settlement possible. But can he win over the skeptics at NASA and the wider world?

The Mars Underground is a landmark documentary that follows Dr. Zubrin and his team as they try to bring this incredible dream to life. Through spellbinding animation, the film takes us on a daring first journey to the Red Planet and envisions a future Mars teeming with life and terraformed into a blue world.

A must-see experience for anyone concerned for our global future and the triumph of the human spirit.


David Bowie: Life on Mars, 1973

Directed By Mick Rock, July 1973.

"Life on Mars?" is a song by David Bowie first released in 1971 on the album Hunky Dory. The song, which BBC Radio 2 later called "a cross between a Broadway musical and a Salvador Dal painting", featured guest piano work by keyboardist and Yes member Rick Wakeman. When released as a single in 1973, it reached #3 in the UK and stayed on the chart for 13 weeks. The song re-entered the UK charts at #55 over 30 years later, largely because of a TV show by the same name that used the song.

In February 1999, Q magazine listed the single as one of the 100 greatest of all time, as voted by the readers. It has continued to chart in the Q 'best of' polls, featuring most recently in 2006 at #45. A BBC Radio 2 poll in 1986 crowned it as the best David Bowie song of all time.

As early as 1974 Barbra Streisand released a version of the song on her album Butterfly. The song has also been covered by Italian artist L'Aura and by pop artist Mig Ayesa and American pop musician Michelle Branch.