One can count on smart and witty astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to throw someone a playful challenge every time.
Take, for instance, his message for SpaceX founder Elon Musk during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday. When asked about the recent Falcon 9 mission (its historic blastoff into space carrying a SES-9 satellite) and whether he would ever consider going to Mars via the Musk-owned company, Tyson answered in truly candid terms.
deGrasse Tyson’s Take
“I really like Earth,” he said. “So any space trip I take, I’m double checking that there’s sufficient funds for me to return.”
Here came the catch: “Also, I’m not taking that trip until Elon Musk send[s] his Mother and brings her back alive. Then I’m good for it.”
The famed astrophysicist’s challenge speculated on Musk’s willingness to put his family on the line when it comes to his towering space colonization plans.
The mother in question is 68-year-old international model Maye Musk, who has walked the different fashion ramps of the world and even appeared in a Beyonce music video. Asked by Mashable last year if she’s moving to Mars, Maye said she isn’t — humanity likely needs “the younger people there like engineers to create a future.”
The SpaceX founder himself indicated that he has no Mars travel plans so far, largely to make sure that his spaceflight firm will continue in case some goes wrong in his own spaceflight.
On Reusable Rocket Technology
deGrasse Tyson also delved on the importance of SpaceX’s innovations for what the future holds for space travel.
“Any demonstration of rocket reusability is a good thing,” he said, adding that reusability could be the most fundamental element of affording expensive missions.
But while admitting he’s one of the biggest supporters of what SpaceX is trying to do, he did not mince words when it came to potential gaps and issues.
“My read of history is that private companies will not be the first to send humans to Mars unless government actually pays for it,” he said, explaining that governments usually perform these “hugely expensive” projects first, allow private firms to learn what works best, and produce an overriding plan.
The uncertain returns on SpaceX’s investments, he added, could make “poor activities” as a profit-driven enterprise.
Twitter is also the astrophysicist’s playground, where he recently warned that America could easily become “sick,” “weak,” and “stupid” in light of science and health budget cuts during the Trump administration.
While deGrasse Tyson’s tweets did not directly reference Trump or his budget proposal, a recently released blueprint of its 2018 budget requests revealed the White House’s proposed $54 billion in cuts to significant portions of the federal government along with popular science and health research and education initiatives.
“The fastest way to Make America Weak Again: Cut science funds to our agencies that support it,” deGrasse Tyson wrote on his Twitter account last March 20.
On the chopping board are a number of NASA initiatives, such as its ARM program aimed at flying a robotic space vehicle to a near-Earth object, its earth sciences program, and its entire education office.