Neil DeGrasse Tyson, possibly the world’s favorite astrophysicist, has been making the rounds on television this month to talk about his new book on why NASA matters, after the agency’s decades-old space program closed down last year. Tyson says that if NASA is given the money it needs, the agency will stimulate the economy and inspire better, more innovative projects from students.
With Tyson’s reappearance has come the resurfacing of some pretty important life questions the space expert once answered, like this one from Time Magazine in 2008: “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” Tyson:
“When I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up — many people feel small, ’cause they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.”
Time’s interview with Tyson has been watched hundreds of thousands of times. Like British physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Tyson has a wide audience in large part because he knows how to make science accessible.
Last week, Tyson took questions from Reddit users in a wildly popular “AMA” (ask me anything) forum. Tyson gave suggestions on how to get people interested in the beauty of science (take them to a planetarium), named his favorite talk show interviewers (Stewart, Colbert), and postulated what humanity would need to colonize another star system (an understanding of wormhole travel).
The Post’s Jena McGregor writes that Tyson has also filled “a leadership black hole” of sorts, with his “genuine passion and childlike fascination” and because he isn’t afraid to talk “grand talk of bold adventure and big ideas.”
Below, listen to Tyson’s full answer to Time’s question, edited with images taken by the Hubble space telescope and other images of the solar system, by videographer Max Schlickenmeyer: