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Neil deGrasse Tyson on the final frontier: Let’s see what’s out there

I happen to have been born the same week NASA was founded, in early October 1958. That means my earliest awareness of the world took place in the 1960s, during the Apollo era. It was also a turbulent decade internationally, and America was no exception. We were at war in Southeast Asia, the civil rights movement was under way, assassinations were taking place, and NASA was heading for the Moon.

At the time, it seemed clear that the astronauts, whatever criteria were used to select them, would never have included me. The astronauts were drawn from the military — all but two of them. One was Neil Armstrong, a civilian test pilot and aeronautical engineer — the commander of Apollo 11 and the first human to step foot on the Moon. The other was Harrison Schmitt, a geologist, the only scientist to go to the Moon. Schmitt was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, America’s last Moon mission.

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