A reader raised these questions: Could the money, a good percentage being taxpayer dollars, spent on space exploration be better put to use on problems facing humanity on Earth? Lord knows, we face a multitude of daunting challenges right here that require vast sums of financial resources to confront, if not solve. Hunger, poverty, disease, inadequate housing, social injustice, education, water shortages, climate change is only a partial list of challenges that a wide swath of humanity face on a daily basis. Yet the space program for the U.S. consumes billions of dollars. For what? So that we can see pretty pictures of distant galaxies or close up views of the moons and planets in our own solar system? Is the cost of sending astronauts into space and dozens of probes to Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and even far distant Pluto really a good use of our resources? Shouldn’t we be tackling the problems here on Earth before we go gallivanting into outer space?
Does the space program in any way create practical applications for everyday life? Or is it just a bunch of scientists sucking up funds for their own pet projects? A better question to ask is would the insights, innovations, and breakthroughs that have occurred directly or indirectly because of the space program have happened without it?