The astrophysicist and host of the rebooted Cosmos not only helped calm Colbert’s nerves about what lies ahead, but he also helped viewers put Trump in what he called “cosmic perspective.” It started in the show’s cold open when Colbert met Tyson on the roof of his theater to look at some stars.
“You know what we do in moments like this in my field?” Tyson asked Colbert. “We invoke the cosmic perspective.” He explained, “That’s what Earth look likes from high above, not just, like, from the atmosphere, but from space itself, from the universe. And when you do that, all Earth’s problems dissolve away into the infinitude of the space-time continuum.” Asked if that made him feel any better, Colbert admitted that it did not.
But later, when Tyson elucidated his point with a quote from Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Colbert did seem comforted.
“In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it,” Tyson quoted Mitchell. “From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
But it was Tyson’s prescription later in their interview for how to deal with a president who doesn’t seem to believe in science—and has declared, “I love the poorly educated”—that got him his biggest ovation of the night.
“Let me just say, I think we have a four-year mission now,” Tyson said. “I think what we need to do, let us together, make America smart again.”