Neil deGrasse Tyson’s attempt (“The Case for Space,” March/April 2012) to revive the bellicose spirit of the 1960s in order to foster a U.S. space race with China brings to mind General “Buck” Turgidson’s remarks about “a mineshaft gap” in Dr. Strangelove. If one were tempted to think that the director Stanley Kubrick’s dark satire was dated, doubt no more.
The analogy to the 1960s is inappropriate given the current mood of the country. Although there are doubtless many possible spinoffs from future space technology, a cost-benefit analysis might suggest that other, more targeted expenditures, such as in energy and education, would better suit the country’s current needs.
Furthermore, it is useful to note that the U.S. national debt was just under $300 billion in 1961; today, it is more than $15 trillion. Ironically, a space race with China would require the United States to borrow from the same country with which it would be competing.