Space partisans often point to the alleged technological breakthroughs that come from solving hard problems like keeping humans alive in an environment never meant to sustain them.
(But why do we need to “solve those hard problems” IF WE DIDN’T HAVE A SPACE PROGRAM IN THE FIRST PLACE?)
But, as Hanson points out, you could get similar technological boons from any ambitious project you convince the feds to spray money at — whether it’s robot butlers or floating cities. If we wanted to, we could surely “find other projects with larger direct payoffs.”
The argument for federally funded spaceflight ultimately boils down to “spacecraft as soulcraft,” the quasi-religious notion that, as Post columnist Charles Krauthammer puts it, we go “not for practicality,” but “for the wonder and the glory of it.”
Space must be an alluring muse indeed, given that it makes Krauthammer, normally a hardheaded neoconservative, sound like a yoga instructor gone lightheaded during a juice fast. (…)
Krauthammer’s obsession makes sense, in a way, since federally funded spaceflight is the quintessential neoconservative project: a giant, wasteful crusade designed to fill Americans’ supposedly empty lives with meaning.