September 21, 2017 8:00 pm

Friday, Neil, Chuck and Ellen Stofan Discuss the Future of NASA

This week on StarTalk Radio we’re continuing our Let’s Make America Smart Again series as we turn our attention towards NASA. Neil deGrasse Tyson is joined by comic co-host Chuck Nice and former Chief Scientist at NASA Ellen Stofan to answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about NASA’s past, present, future, and more.

You may not know her, but Dr. Ellen Stofan is kind of a big deal. She has expertise in planetary geology and volcanology and has been a part of numerous interplanetary missions during her time at NASA resulting in discoveries and data that have greatly shaped the scientific community. Earlier this week she was on an episode of StarTalk All-Stars that’s also definitely worth a listen: Comparative Planetology, with Ellen Stofan.

Tomorrow’s episode is all about NASA. From colonizing Mars to space junk to the International Space Station, this episode covers a lot of your favorite topics for discussion.

NASA Artist Concept of SLS and Orion in flight.

Artist Concept of SLS and Orion in flight. Credit: NASA.

I found the conversation on NASA’s budget particularly interesting. NASA’s budget reached its peak during the Apollo era, and rightly so, but hearing about its budget today, if you’re a space nerd or a fan of space exploration in general, is heartbreaking. There’s a whole conversation to be had about governmental spending and allocating of funds, but I think most StarTalk fans would agree that NASA should be getting more money to explore. However, with everything becoming more politicized and jaded, we’ll have to see what the future holds.

I also enjoyed the conversation on space junk. My best visual representation of space junk comes from two movies: Gravity and WALL-E. One dealing with the event of space junk causing life-threating problems for astronauts and the other commenting on the human tendency of excess. The reality, as Ellen says, is somewhere in the middle. Space junk can sometimes cause the International Space Station to change courses in order not to collide and there is also an increasing pile-up of leftover parts, satellites and more in orbit that will need to be cleaned up.

Besides those two threads there’s great conversation throughout the episode and it’s one you don’t want to miss!

Please join us tomorrow night for Let’s Make America Smart Again: The Future of NASA at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on our channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

Also, keep in mind that thanks to our friends at TuneIn, you can also listen to next week’s StarTalk Radio episode starting tonight – 1 week early! Just go to tunein.com/startalk after 7pm ET to listen to Cosmic Queries: Office Hours, with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chuck Nice.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen