For anyone actually paying attention, it becomes readily obvious that NASA desperately needs more money. Neil deGrasse Tyson (one of my heroes) has tried for a very long time to get the NASA budget increased, but has so far, depressingly, failed. What I’m beginning to wonder is, do we need a new vehicle through which to argue the case?
No matter what you may think of the Discovery Network (including the Science Channel, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, H2, etc), they do provide the vehicles for some incredible shows, including Planet Earth*, Life*, the Universe, Through the Wormhole, Curiosity (although how incredible Curiosity is can be debated), How the Universe Works, and so on. These are shows that I absolutely love, and always look forward to seeing more. And I think it is time for a new show.
(*Of course, both of these were initially BBC shows narrated by David Attenborough, and I much prefer his narration and honestly can’t understand why his narration was removed for the US broadcasts.)
I think maybe the Discovery Network should create a miniseries all about NASA. It can tackle NASA’s existence from the very beginning to the future. It should focus on very specific events in NASA’s history, such as Explorer 1, the Apollo Missions (though please ignore conspiracy theorists), the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Pioneer 10, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Mars Pathfinder, Curiosity, the James Webb Space Telescope, and so on. As each of these things (and others) are highlighted, there should be some focus on the technologies NASA has created as a result of these milestones that we now use in everyday life. Make sure that the show has a running undercurrent of arguing why NASA is worth the money we spend on it, and why it should get more money. NASA’s critics should be featured, too, but with rebuttals to them.
The series should then take a turn, and talk about the future. I don’t think such a thing could be reasonably condensed to one episode… even a two-hour episode. It could take a few episodes. The focus here needs to be on two things: economics and our future.
I strongly believe that the survival of the human race rests not here on earth, but out in the universe(s). And the sooner we start on assuring our survival, the better. As great of an achievement as the moon-landings were, they always pissed me off because we used this amazing feat to… what… play golf? The moment Neil Armstrong touched his foot on the moon for the first time, the government should have increased NASA’s budget and NASA should have immediately started on working out the building of a scientific colony on the moon. It should not have taken until the 21st century to find water on the moon. By the year 2010, I believe that not only should visits to the moons have already been a well-established tourist attraction, but we should have been using the moon as a jumping point for consistent scientific trips to Mars. Not only should we have sent people to Mars, but we should now be figuring out ways to get humans past the asteroid belt and onto the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and, eventually, the Oort Cloud… and beyond.
Putting people on Mars should be a thing of the past, not something we talk about dreamily now, as if it’s some long-way-off idea that we may never reach.
This is what I want the second-half of the miniseries to talk about. Where we could have been and where we need to go. This could, and should, include economic arguments in favor of it, as well. The money we give to NASA produces technologies that we use in everyday life, and will continue to do so. The new spacesuits and structures invented to make living and scientific study on Mars easier will, I guarantee you, find their way into our everyday lives. Imagine, perhaps, the technology behind those spacesuits being retooled for use as protective bodysuits for motorcyclists, sky-divers, and so on. Perhaps they could be set in such a way that damage is minimized far beyond where it is today. It’s NASA that will get us technology like this. We should look forward to what NASA can do for us and our economy. A bigger NASA means more jobs, too. Indeed, there really is no economic downside to increasing NASA’s budget.
And where would we get the money? Well, let’s start with the fact that NASA’s 2012 budget came from 0.48% of the total US budget.
I’ll bet you thought it was more than that, didn’t you? Well, you were wrong.
In fact, I think you should read NASA’s budget for 2013.
So when I say “NASA needs more money”, I’m saying we should increase it to 2%, maybe 3% of the total US budget. It’s not as if we can’t find that money somewhere. I promise you, our Defense budget won’t miss it. Indeed, you could make the case that our defenses need NASA for purposes of defense. As a pacifist, I’d be unhappy with this, but if this is one argument needed to convince people that NASA needs more money, than it’s an argument I, for one, am willing to make. And yes, I’d be more than willing to pay slightly higher taxes to pay for this, and I’m quite poor.
As to the start of the show, I think it should begin with an Intelligence Squared debate, shown in full (not edited in any way) over whether or not NASA should get more money. I’d love to see Neil deGrasse Tyson arguing in favor of it, with perhaps Phil Plait or Lisa Randall as his partner. That could be the first 2-hour episode, with the rest of show bouncing off from there.
As to who hosts, I actually think that duty should be split. I think the person who we see, who does the traveling and the interviewing, should be Neil deGrasse Tyson. However, I think the voice-over narrations should be provided by Morgan Freeman, who also hosts/narrates Through the Wormhole.
So this is my miniseries idea about NASA. We desperately need the country to wake up to the importance of NASA, and the importance of the Cosmos in our future. Will anybody hear me? Would we ever see a show like this? Would you want to see a show like this?