While we tend to look back on NASA’s Apollo and Gemini days as a golden era of space exploration, for the men and women involved in the massive undertaking, peace was far from their minds.  Through the rosy lenses of history, we tend to think of America’s space pioneering efforts as an example of mankind’s ability to put aside differences in favor of a far-reaching goal – but in reality, the space race was always an extension of the Cold War.

Today, people often posit the question, “why haven’t we gone back to the moon in decades?”  It’s not an unfair one – we managed to put two men on the moon using an entire spaceship that possessed less computing power than the phone you may have dropped in the toilet once or twice, and although the expense of the trip was high, most of the tech required for the voyage has already been developed, tested, and even improved upon since.

If you ask famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson why we haven’t made a more concerted effort toward space exploration and travel in recent decades, he’ll provide a succinct answer. The problem is that we’re no longer amidst a space race with another nation that may use their space-born superiority as the ultimate high ground in a military conflict, as we feared the Soviets might do.

According to Tyson, that fear could ignite serious change in the way we think of space operations in the modern world.