Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival. Not only does that get people interested in sciences and all the related fields, [but] it transforms the culture into one that values science and technology, and that’s the culture that innovates. And in the 21st century, innovations in science and technology are the foundations of tomorrow’s economy.
I could stand in front of eighth-graders and say, ‘Who wants to be an aerospace engineer so you can design an airplane 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the one your parents flew?’ That doesn’t usually work. But if I say, ‘Who wants to be an aerospace engineer to design the airplane that will navigate the rarefied atmosphere of Mars?’ because that’s where we’re going next, I’m getting the best students in the class. I’m looking for life on Mars? I’m getting the best biologist. I want to study the rocks on Mars? I’m getting the best geologists.
What [the president] needs to say is, ‘We need to double NASA’s budget because not only is it the grandest epic adventure a human being can undertake, not only would the people who led this adventure be the ones we end up building statues to and naming high schools after and becoming the next generation’s Mercury 7 as role models, not only will there be spinoff products from these discoveries, but what’s more important than all of those, what’s more practical than all of those, is that he will transform the economy into one that will lead the world once again rather than trail the world as we are inevitably going to be doing over the next decade.’