Neil deGrasse Tyson seemed to be onto something late last month when the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium and "NOVA" host lamented that too few Americans these days -- particularly young people -- look up.
Those of us blessed to be alive during the late 1960s and early '70s had the unique privilege to watch the United States successfully land several men on the moon and return them safely to earth, Tyson said during an appearance at the University at Buffalo's Distinguished Speakers Series.
Those missions were a concrete example that space was a worthy frontier, that Americans could dream big and that we could achieve our dreams.
I was 8 years old during the first moon landing and could barely believe me eyes. The black-and-white image of the Lunar Module landing and Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon's surface left an indelible imprint. Even now, I sometimes catch myself looking up on a clear night and marvel that human beings set foot on such a prominent piece of the sky.
Those born after the moon landings have had no equivalent, Tyson said.
Today, he said, it would take years to reclaim the knowledge, and the will, to repeat the feats of those Apollo astronauts from a generation ago.
Not that it's a priority anyway.
Most of us are far more comfortable much closer to home, thank you very much, are squeezed financially and have far too many gadgets at our fingertips to put much thought into outer space. Especially those too short in the tooth to remember the moon landings.
While we fiddle, Tyson warned at UB in a portion of his talk now on YouTube, NASA is taking funding hits -- and other nations have usurped America's thirst for the keys to knowledge buried in the distance of our universe.
"Nobody's dreaming about tomorrow anymore," he says. "NASA knows how to dream about tomorrow."
Many of tomorrow's technologies will be found in space, Tyson says, and the countries who chase it will be the leaders of the world.
"America," he warns, "is fading...
At some point, you gotta look up," he implores, adding that when a nation advances its frontiers, "heroes are made."
-- News Niagara Editor Scott Scanlon