Neil deGrasse Tyson on How Astrophysics Affects the Military

Renowned physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the program to discuss how astrophysics influences our military here on earth.

Read Transcript EXPAND

Do you foresee a time when space itself will be, as you put it weapons and lasers and intergalactic battles taking place up there or is that just Star Wars fantasy?

When you think of what a military's task should be, and this is back to the Space Force, you want them to be what does the military do?

They protect you.

All right.

They provide security for your life.

Sometimes just at the border.

In modern times you need a sort of cyber security this sort of thing.


In space, what are they protecting?

Well I have space assets.

I have a weather satellite.

I have a TV communications satellite.

You want to protect those because I'm conducting commerce through them not I, I mean our citizenry.

Now it's not only the value of the hardware that's up there.

It's the value of the of the economy that it enables on Earth.

So if you have a weather satellite it gives you a picture of a moving hurricane and you can warn people and businesses and commerce move, do this, take this precaution., you save money you save lives and so you want a space force to protect that wouldn't you.

So now I'm a rogue state and I have a satellite that's kind of irritating your commerce satellite or I'm tickling it, I want to block it.

So you're going to want some way to defend against that.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which reads like Kumbaya.

It's beautiful I mean it's very hopeful.

We all hold hands and and and save other astronauts if they're in trouble.

It's beautifully written but it allows you to put defensive weapons in space.

Now if I see your satellite coming towards me even though it hasn't done anything yet and I'm a little spooked and I as a first strike take you out is that defensive right.

So there's some gray area there.

That's really gray.

Really really gray.

It's gray on Earth too of course.

So now I don't I don't see I don't see bombs in space.

Plus you're not going to drop a bomb on Earth from orbit.

That's just not efficient.

We already can deliver a bomb through intercontinental ballistic missiles.

You can send missile from one place to another anywhere on earth within 45 minutes.

That's the amazing thing which makes them so deadly which is why those things held us hostage, the world hostage, during the entire length of the Cold War.

You're not going to do that because you'll make a mess of space and then you can't conduct business.

You can't even conduct military operations.

What would could happen is if you have colonies on Mars and colonies on the moon, multiple colonies on the moon and then you start getting tribal and you say this is my and it's not your colony is my country here is my flag.

I can imagine wars on the surface of the moon, wars on the surface of Mars.

I can imagine.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour sits down with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and violinist Daniel Hope. Walter Isaacson speaks with Damian Woetzel, president of The Juilliard School.