Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't think you should mock Trump's new Space Force

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

In remarks delivered at the Pentagon on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence announced plans for how the Department of Defense will approach space operations by 2020 — a newly created, sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces called the “Space Force.” This followed a space policy directive that President Donald Trump signed during a National Space Council meeting this past June.

A Space Force has been met with a bipartisan endorsement from the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, possible opposition from members of Trump’s own Cabinet, and outright hostility from certain members of the left:

Although a segment of the scientific community has been vocally opposed to a Space Force, the sentiment is not universal. Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos and an outspoken science advocate, explained to Yahoo Entertainment why the idea of a Space Force shouldn’t immediately be mocked. (Watch above.)

Secretary of Defense James Mattis introduces Vice President Mike Pence during an event on the creation of a United States Space Force, Aug. 9, 2018, at the Pentagon. Pence says the time has come to establish a new United States Space Force to ensure America’s dominance in space amid heightened threats from China and Russia. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

‘A Space Force is not a crazy idea…’

“Just because an idea came out of Trump’s mouth does not have to mean it’s crazy,” Tyson cautioned. “A Space Force is an idea that’s been around, actually, for several decades as our space assets have grown. And the assets we, as Americans, have in space is almost incalculable at this point. Not so much the value of the satellites themselves but the value of the commerce that they enable.

“Look at GPS, for example,” he continued. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of industry relies on this now. So as any good military, wisely constructed military would have as its mission, it is to protect your assets. A Space Force is not a crazy idea with regard to that. What would they do? They would protect us from asteroids that might want to render us extinct. I can guarantee you if the dinosaurs had a Space Force, they’d still be here today.”

‘We’re not shaping a message just to fit what may be some prevailing political winds…’

In 2014, Tyson relaunched Cosmos , the science series originated by Carl Sagan, to much acclaim. The series earned four Emmys and a Peabody Award. A second season, subtitled Possible Worlds, will air in 2019.

Since the first season began while President Barack Obama was still in office, we asked Tyson if the show will change in any way to reflect the new political atmosphere.

“Scientific truths are true whether or not you believe in them,” Tyson answered. “If you present the world and the universe as it is, as informed by the methods and tools of science,  it may be received differently between one administration or one generation and the next, but we’re not shaping a message just to fit what may be some prevailing political winds. It is the political winds that will react in whatever way they feel they must to the message of urgency about how knowledge and understanding of how the world works and what our place is in the world can be brought to bear on making a better world.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson joined Yahoo Entertainment at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2018 and told us that he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea of a U.S. Space Force. (Photo: Yahoo Entertainment)

‘However divided it feels that is, it’s not nearly divided as it was twice in one century’

Tyson prefers looking at the big picture about science and society. “We’re living longer,” he said. “We understand health better. Whether you act on that is something else. You don’t have major institutions endorsing slavery anymore. There’s a huge dialogue regarding the rights and liberties of women and underrepresented people of the world. There’s an era where that simply wasn’t the case. I hate to say this as though it’s some compliment to give ourselves, but we haven’t had a world war in 70 years. However divided it feels that is, it’s not nearly divided as it was twice in one century within 40 years of one another.

“So while we still have a long way to go, I devote some of my energy reflecting on how bad things once were. It’s easy to forget, the things that we take for granted, the advances that we’ve made in our understanding of what it is to treat one another, to be healthy, what to eat, what not to eat. And so, yeah, I think we’re better. That’s my long answer.”

Watch: Trump launches Space Force; internet reacts:

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