A few days ago, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson did an “Ask Me Anything” conversation on Reddit and, among the many answers he provided, there were some funny comments regarding what SpaceX needs to do before Dr Tyson is prepared to jump on one of its spaceships to Mars.
“I really like Earth. So any space trip I take, I'm double checking that there's sufficient funds for me to return," the astrophysicist said in the AMA. "Also, I'm not taking that trip until Elon Musk sends his Mother and brings her back alive. Then I'm good for it.”
Going to Mars is not going to be a walk in the park. There are many risks already established and there are probably more uncertainties waiting to be discovered. With SpaceX planning to send people to Mars possibly as early as 2025, Tyson's request of a return trip and mother-tested safety are actually quite sensible.
“I'm simultaneously one of Space-X's biggest critics and supporters. I've said many time and many places, that projects that are hugely expensive and dangerous, with uncertain returns on investments make poor activities of profit-driven companies,” Tyson added. “Governments do these things first, allowing private enterprise to learn what to do and what not to do, then come next with a plan that involves us all. So my read of history is that private companies will not be the first to send humans to Mars unless governments actually pay for it.”
This AMA comes right after SpaceX's historic launch and landing of a reusable rocket and there was a lot of excitement in the thread about the company.
Tyson commented: “Any demonstration of rocket reusability is a good thing. When we fly on a Boeing 747 across great distances, we don't throw it away and roll out a new one. Reusability is arguably the most fundamental feature of affordable expensive things.”
It wasn't just rocket science discussed in the thread, though. Tyson, who’s the director of the Hayden Planetarium, also talked about scientific literacy and education, stating that one of his career goals is to foster an entire generation of scientists as educators.
He also answered some rather morbid questions (you can check the entire thread here). He has previously stated the most interesting way to die is falling into a black hole, so it's not surprising that he was asked what the second most interesting way is.
“Maybe a closeup view of a Supernova explosion. One of the greatest events in the universe. Happens maybe only once per century per galaxy," he answered. "It would look beautiful up close, right up until the energy intensity vaporized you.”