Many say that our problems here on Earth must take precedence. I believe we must look at the big picture, and deal with issues concurrently: we cannot always face inward to the troubles that plague us on the ground, for they will always exist. There will always be some hindrance, some obstacle, some reason to defer, so if we always put it off until tomorrow, tomorrow will never come. We must raise our heads above the chaos and turmoil on the surface, and look not just to where we are, but to where we may go.
We must get off the planet. We must go to the stars. We are faced with overpopulation in certain areas in the shorter term, and, in the long term, our sun will eventually destroy this world. We have to walk before we can run, and we must explore and learn about our universe now, that we may provide future generations with a solid foundation of research and knowledge for the eventual preservation and continuance of the human race.
I confess bias here, and utter idealism: I have always considered the quest for space to be inspiring. It's something I care about. Maybe I just watched The Right Stuff too many times, but on a large scale, more than any government, more than any political agenda, more than any war, it is the human spirit, the triumph of the individual, that ennobles us and drives us forward. It is our audacity and courage, our pioneer determination, that kick-starts our progress and takes us to the next step. Disasters like Columbia and Challenger only serve as reminders of how far we have to go before we can engage in reliable, consistent space travel, so we'd better get started.
I'm deliberately permitting myself a lot of "hot" adjectives in my rhetoric, and, delivered with the appropriate amount of impassioned emotion, it would probably play reasonably well at my old college debate society. However, my justification for a touch of hyperbole is that I truly believe in this. For some folks, seeking the cosmos is almost a religion. I wouldn't say that I go that far, but I am one of those who finds a lot of comfort in its shiny promise. Yes, people need food and healthcare, but they also need hope. They also need to have a tomorrow that looks better than today, to help carry them forward. For many of us, the space program is a big part of providing that tomorrow.