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Neil DeGrasse Tyson recalls realizing the connection between astrophysics and warfare

Neil deGrasse Tyson on space militarization
"Accessory to War": Neil deGrasse Tyson talks militarization of space 06:50

In his latest book, Neil DeGrasse Tyson recalls the first time he really understood the relationship between astrophysics and the military. Chemists made napalm, physicists created the atom bomb and biologists weaponized anthrax, but how astrophysicists figured into modern warfare wasn't so obvious to him. He wasn't thrilled.

"It was odd, I was at a conference, a space conference, when the second Gulf War was ramping up big time. At that space conference were all these contractors that make the missiles, the weapons, the bombs and they of course broke into many of the sessions to bring the live coverage, the live TV coverage. And every time it was announced that this was a Lockheed Martin missile or a Boeing missile or General Dynamics, that group would applaud and cheer.  It was like, people are dying in this. I got very upset," Tyson told "CBS This Morning" on Friday.

Tyson examines the proposed militarization of space and his field's not-so-obvious association with the military in his new book, "Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military."

Neil deGrasse Tyson on new book and having a "cosmic perspective" 05:31

Earlier this year, President Trump officially directed the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space. The president's proposed Space Force would protect U.S. interests in space and, according to the Pentagon, would both accelerate space technology and advance America's scientific knowledge.

While late-night comedians couldn't resist the temptation to lampoon the president's call for a Space Force, Tyson argues that not only has space been, in a sense, militarized since exploration of it began, but that it is in our best interest to make sure we are protecting it.

"Our space assets are not just the value of the satellites that were constructed. It's the value of the commerce that they enable. GPS satellites… whole industries only exist because of it," Tyson said.

Asked whether he endorses the idea of a Space Force, Tyson demurred, saying "I don't have a horse in that race."  

"Consider, first, that ever since anybody's had access to space we've been putting spy satellites in space. The militarization is not simply do you have weapons but are there activities that relate to the conduct of war and, yes, we've had that since the beginning.  That is not a new understanding or a new idea," Tyson said. 

To hear what kind of defense Tyson would like included in any future Space Force, watch the video at the top of this page.

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