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I think we did get a lot of very interesting technologies from the space program. However, I think we also wasted billions of dollars that might have better been used here on earth. I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about this.
I completely disagree with the editors above. If not for the space program, you wouldn't be sitting here writing on your laptop and able to access the world wide web. The space program which of course did give us national prestige also gave us new and innovative ideas and technologies. CAT scans and MRI's that save millions of lives were originally invented to enhance pictures of the moon. Space shuttle fuel pump technology led to the artificial heart ventricular assist device. Breast biopsy technology using imaging and a needle, rather than surgery as well as mammogram technology all came out of the space program. Aviation safety, cordless power tools, water and air purification, all came from the space program. The list is virtually endless and the benefits are immense.
I actually just read a great article that would suggest very much that Pohnpei is right and it hasn't at all justified the means. We've gotten locked into the rocket idea of putting things into space and even for things that are useful in terms of satellites, etc., the cost is incredible but no one can think of different ways because rockets dominate the conversation.
Add to that the incredible amount of money spent to develop and build ICBMs and all the other destructive devices (99+% of all rockets are built to kill) that have come out of all that research and development... I don't think it is hard to see that the end did not justify the means.
This is completely a matter of opinion.
I would argue that it was not worth it because I do not really think that space exploration (of the sort that we have done so far) is really all that important. I think that our moon missions were done for national prestige more than anything else. I do not know that that goal was worth the money or the loss of the lives of the Apollo 1 astronauts.
I'm not sure that the space shuttle program was worth the lives of the Challenger or Columbia crews either. It seems that the scientific benefits of the program could be gotten through unmanned missions which would be both cheaper and less dangerous to human life.
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