For some time there has been controversy over the effectiveness of manned missions into space, and while the benefits are too numerous to count, is it worth the money? Can't we find more effective ways to spend the money?
It's not an easy topic to summarize. Having just today written for ninety minutes on the subject myself, and still uncertain where I stand. A lot of big budget missions have been put into production, cancelled, scrapped, and then even bigger plans put on the board. I speak primarily of NASA, being the leaders of space exploration, though other private companies are being encouraged to compete to make space travel commercial.
But these are tough times. Can we still be endorsing space exploration when there are much more pressing matters at home? Are renewable energy sources, climate change, and a stable economy not more pressing concerns for the U.S government?
On one side, space exploration pushes us into unknown situations, one in which we must use our human ingenuity to overcome the perils threatening us, and such technologies rebound back to Earth in spin-off technologies. I'm not talking about 'NASA beds' but more about housing insulation, the Jaws of life, understanding of radiation safety and so much more. Things which have drastically improved or altered our way of living for the better.
On the other hand, space exploration is costly, and until we can overcome vast distances (which we may never be able to do) we're literally throwing our money over a cliff with no economic return.
Is the standard of living worth money which could also improve the standard of living - or are we all clutching onto that dream of being the first man on mars?
The next few decades shall be a hallmark era for space exploration. It's either going to take off like before, or finally run out of fuel and fall back to Earth.
So if there's ever a time to debate whether it's worth the trouble of going up, now's the time to do it.
[/desperate attempt to reboot serious discussion...]