A militarized space race between the United States and China would spark innovation comparable to what was seen decades before, rekindling the flames of innovation, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said.

If he could just get the leaders of China to leak a memo to the West regarding plans to build military bases on the planet Mars, Tyson joked, it could freak out the United States, which could then build a spacecraft that could reach the Red Planet in as little as 10 months.

This would convert a sleepy country into an innovative one practically overnight, Tyson said, a transformation that would come with huge economic implications.  

The astrophysicist said that being technologically threatened could pave the way to technological innovation in the interest of defense, but he pointed out that he would rather have this happen for the stimulation and growth of the economy.  

The current director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City said that while he is not supporting a search for a new enemy, a new space race would help boost the economy and even revitalize interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a similar manner that the Apollo moon missions accomplished this back in the 1960s and 1970s.

"This would reignite the flames of innovation that I think we, at least in the U.S., at one time took for granted," Tyson said to an Ausralian paper before a visit to that country. "You would transform a sleepy country into an innovation nation and you'd do it practically overnight. And that transformation has huge economic implications."

A renewed space program would necessitate input from a number of science fields including biology, chemistry, physics, geology, propulsion and astronomy and advances in these fields could result in innovations that produced items like smartphones.

Tyson grew up during the period marked by the influence of the Apollo moon mission and attributes his interest in astronomy to the excitement he felt while watching the historic manned landings on the moon. The astrophysicist, who demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet status and has provided the U.S. government advice on space policy, isn't the only person raising issues regarding the stagnation of innovation in western societies. Such concerns also are raised by anthropologist David Graeber and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Photo: Neil deGrasse Tyson | Twitter 

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