A passion for exploration is the fuel to an innovative economy, says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
In an interview with CNBC's "On the Money," the host of the new National Geographic Channel TV show "StarTalk"—based on Tyson's podcast and Sirius XM radio show of the same name—described the dynamic implications of scientific discovery.
"You have to innovate," said Tyson, arguably the most famous astrophysicist in America. When "an engineer comes out with a new patent to take you to a place, intellectually, physically, that has never been reached before, those become the engines of tomorrow's economy."
When it comes to space innovation, many of the headlines about exploration beyond Earth have been generated by private enterprise like Elon Musk's SpaceX, tech giant Google and even Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. Separately, Sir Richard Branson-founded Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures, companies that offer tourism opportunities for non-scientists.
Space tourism is expected to grow into a $1 billion sector over the next several years, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Meanwhile the National Space Society estimates the industry's size could eventually swell to as high as $1 trillion, with the proliferation of satellites, global positioning systems and other technology already giving consumers a taste of space's vast reaches.
Still, boldly going where no one has gone before is expensive, time-consuming and potentially rife with numerous dangers, Tyson says. He believes it could limit the long-term interest of private enterprise.
He suggests, "If you're a business person, what's the first thing you're going to ask? 'What's my return on investment?' "