The best argument for space exploration might be Earthrise—the picture taken by astronaut Bill Anders in late December 1968. It gives us a perspective we could have gotten in no other way except by being in Moon orbit looking back at our planetary home floating in the vast darkness of space.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to ignore the irony, or whatever, of Richard Branson going into near space and the gobs of money poured into that effort, as a way of making space tourism (?) more “affordable,” while back on earth there is so much rot. This has always been the critique, though.
It’s a familiar refrain—why not spend some of your billions making things better back here on earth? I’ve never been fully convinced by the argument officials at NASA or people who live in the rarified air like Branson have made along the way. If all we get out of space travel and a multi-billion dollar space station are things like self-satisfaction and affirmation of the human pioneering spirit, and another means of making money—along with Tang and pens that write upside down—then maybe there is an argument to be made for a realignment of priorities.
Wow, I can see where that might sound terribly ignorant and provincial. We deserve an accounting, though– a list– of the benefits to real life of all the years and billion$ (trillion$?) spent trying to reach the stars.