Why government matters, cont’d: Advancing the frontier

A very lively exchange of ideas (and arguments) about the future of human spaceflight and exploration, from last summer’s The Amazing Meeting. Panelists are Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pamela Gay, and Lawrence Krauss, moderated by Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy. It’s almost an hour, and well worth watching if you have the time.

I very much agree with Tyson’s argument (starting around 15:00) about the government’s role in advancing the frontier: that governments, historically, have been the engines for initial exploration and discovery; the epic voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Lewis and Clark — not to mention Armstrong and Aldrin — were all government-funded affairs. Commerce follows in the wake of discovery, taming the risky into the routine (as trips into low Earth orbit are now passing into the purview of private enterprise) but forward-looking governments are still best-positioned to marshal the will and resources of their citizens to fund the first leaps into the unknown.

An earlier (and just as lively) discussion about the future of NASA here and here.

(via Bad Astronomy)

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