I'm going to try to keep this succinct...but just be warned, I may fail horribly.
There are three main reasons I think we should keep investing in the space program: symbolic meaning, it's ability to inspire and the impact it has on technological advancement.
First, it's symbolic meaning. To be American is to explore. It is part of our cultural identity and heritage. It is who we are and what we've fought for from the very inception of our nation. I shutter to think of what Lewis and Clark would say to us if we just decided to quit expanding our knowledge of the world around us.
Second, the space program has the power to inspire people more than anything else...period. Just take a look at my comments on the previous post. No one who was alive to see the lunar landing wanted to cut the budget. I'm afraid our current generation takes for granted the fact that we sent a frail, weak human being to the MOON!
Also, everyone knows that our educational programs are failing our children. Scores are slipping, no one wants to teach kids for such a pittance and kids are seemingly less interested in math science engineering and technology. This, everyone would agree is a problem. How many kids are going to be motivated to pursue education in the above fields if we as a nation do not agree to support those fields? How will they be inspired to learn and work hard if there is no amazing science left to do? And believe me when I say that once we give up on the space program other fields will be left vulnerable. If we as a people don't care about advancing the sciences there is no point to work on our educational system where the maths and sciences are concerned.
And lastly, the research and development that has been dedicated to devising solutions for taking mankind into space has had some pretty amazing benefits to our entire race. I'm not saying that we wouldn't have come up with these ideas without the program, but it sure helped move the development forward. Here is just a small list of the benefits we see thanks to the federal dollars invested in the space program:
Semiconductor Cubing (making computer chips cube shaped that reduced the size and weight of memory-intensive systems like medical imaging devices), structural Analysis (the main technique that EVERYTHING is designed with now to predict when things will break. next time you walk over a bridge and it doesn't collapse thank space), air Quality Monitor (this is how we can monitor the dirty air that factories create and we can attempt to limit their environmental impact) Virtual Reality (Avatar was pretty cool, right?), CDs, enriched babyfood (a lot of food science has come out of the space program...a lot), water purification systems, scratch-resistant lenses, chemical-free pool purification (why don't we have more of these in residential pools?), ribbed swimsuit for speed swimmers, better golf balls and composite golf clubs, athletic shoes (almost all shoes not have shock absorption materials developed by the space program), dustbuster, shock absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel TVs, sports bras, fogless ski goggles, transitions lenses, hang gliders, art preservation, microspheres (the first commercial products manufactured in orbit are tiny perfect microspheres. They are used when manufacturing requires really perfectly calibrated measurements and currently are used mainly for environmental control, medical research, and manufacturing), solar energy, weather forecasting via satellite, forest management via satellite, hydroponic plant research, fire resistant material, radiation insulation, digital imaging breast biopsy system (LORAD), and breast cancer detection, laser angioplasty, ultrasound skin damage assessment for serious burn victims, programmable pacemaker, voice-Controlled wheelchair, ultrasound scanners, automatic insulin pump, invisible braces, portable x-ray, MRI, engine lubricant, emergency rescue cutters (jaws of life), fireman's air tanks, self-righting air raft, Doppler radar, studless winter tires, improved car breaks, improved aircraft engines, emissions testing, electric car
There are many, many more but I'm attempting to keep this post to a readable length. If you thought the space program was expendable and that we have bigger fish to fry as a nation will you take a second to consider how many of the above you use on a daily basis. Would you rather go without them?