Aug 30, 2022
Neil deGrasse Tyson answers Artemis I questions Transcript
NASA scrubbed Monday’s launch of Artemis I. Neil deGrasse Tyson joined CNN to answer viewers’ questions about the postponed launch, the moon, and Mars. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
NASA’s long awaited Artemis I mission was postponed today after an engine cooling issue was discovered. Now, this was supposed to be the first in a series of missions that would return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. Now they will try to launch again as early as Friday, but here’s what the Artemis I manager thinks went wrong.
Mike Sarafin: (00:21)
The combination of not being able to get the engine three chilled down, and then the vent valve issue that they saw at the inner tank really caused us to pause today, and we felt like we needed a little more time. There was also a series of weather issues throughout the window. We would’ve been no go for weather at the beginning of the window due to precipitation, and later on in the window we would’ve been no go for lightning within the launchpad area.
Speaker 3: (00:50)
Let’s bring in astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He joins us live. He’s also the director of the Hayden Planetarium. Neil, great to see you as always. I’m no rocket scientist, just a TV journalist which is obviously much harder. But an engine bleed sounds bad to me. Are you surprised when these things crop up at the 11th hour right before takeoff?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: (01:15)
No. I mean it is rocket science, and it’s hard, and it requires a lot of people and a lot of things to happen correctly. All things that have to work. And so we shouldn’t be surprised. Engineering is hard, science is hard, and these are just reminders of that. Better that it get scrubbed than it explodes on the launchpad, so consider the alternatives.
Speaker 1: (01:40)
Yeah, certainly. Listen, we have asked our viewers on Twitter and Instagram, and I don’t know how many platforms we have, that’s all I have, to ask the big questions that they’d like you to answer, and I’m going to start with one that I received. “Besides executing a safe mission, obviously, what’s the top priority, scientifically of the mission? What took so long to go back to the moon? Are we in a moon race?” I’ll let you choose which of those questions you want to answer.
Neil deGrasse Tyson: (02:06)
I think we are in a little bit of a moon race even if no one admits it publicly. China has met good on every one of their promises when they said, “We’re going to put an astronaut, a taikonaut into orbit.” They did that. They’re going to build a space station, they’re doing that. And so they want to say, declare they want to go to the moon, we should really take them seriously. If we feel threatened by that in any way, this is the kind of response that that triggers. That’s why we went to the moon in the first place. Our cleansed memory of that period is, “Oh we’re Americans and we’re explorers.” Well, we were in the middle of a Cold War, and we got scared when Russia, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and we had to respond in some way for our own dignity, for our own place in the world. So a lot of things drive space exploration beyond just scientific motives.
Speaker 3: (03:04)
Okay, this comes from Joseph on my Instagram, who says, “Does Neil think we’ll ever colonize the moon?”
Neil deGrasse Tyson: (03:13)
Yeah, so colonies imply that you’re going to go there and just hang out and never come back, but there’s the little problem of… there’s the no air problem, okay? [inaudible 00:03:22]. I don’t mind going there for a visit, okay? And there’s this old joke they have restaurants there, and they might just have good food, but there’d be no atmosphere in the restaurant. So you can imagine visiting the moon, but the idea that we’d have a permanent colony, who would do that? I’d just stay here on earth personally.
Speaker 1: (03:45)
All right, so this next question came in through Twitter. “How long will the mission to the moon take, and will the astronauts eventually stay/reside on the moon for research purposes?” I think you answered the second half of that. What do you think?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: (03:59)
Well, so a straight shot to the moon where you sort of launch, you set off your engines to exit earth orbit and then coast to the moon, that takes three days. And then it’s three days back, and you stay on the moon however long your mission requires of you. This one, Artemis I and I think also II but certainly this one has no plans on landing. They were just going to an orbit around the moon and just testing the hardware and the software, and all the things that you want to make sure work before you put people inside the Orion capsule. And so these are important tests. By the way, during Apollo, we did the same thing except we had people onboard because we didn’t have the robotic, remote control abilities that we do today. So that’s why we’re sending an entire mission that in the future will have people, but right now it does not. So how long you spend there is up to whatever are your goals. And like I said, geopolitics is some of the strongest drivers of why nations go into space, not science unfortunately.
Speaker 3: (05:11)
Okay Neil, this comes from Alex on my Instagram, who says, “What measures are taken to stop rockets from colliding with space junk?”
Neil deGrasse Tyson: (05:21)
Yeah, so space is getting junkier by the moment, okay? And so often, they don’t typically tell you this, but often a launch window is set for many reasons, but including the risk of what you want to avoid, some known space junk with which it could collide. And so the military, NASA as well as the military tracks space junk, and you don’t want to run into a piece of space junk moving five miles per second on an orbital intersection, so this is a problem. It’s a problem, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better; and I joke that maybe aliens have come to try to visit and they see all the space junk surrounding the earth and they say, “Forget it. We’re going back home. We don’t want to risk landing there.” So I think about what aliens think all the time, it’s a thing with me.
Speaker 1: (06:21)
Well that’s something to consider, thinking about what aliens think all the time.