For the longest time, I've considered myself an advocate for science and technology. Scientific advancement gives us the power to do things that were previously impossible - feed the hungry, wipe out diseases, build great machines to ensure a high standard of living, and to perform previously godlike feats with trivial ease. In short, science is knowledge and knowledge is power.
So it seems like a foregone conclusion that mankind should take to the stars. Not only for the direct scientific and resourcing benefits, but also because the cooperation necessary for such a feat would inevitably bring participating nations closer together. Also, on an individual level, a space pioneer slipping the surly bonds of Earth, making camp on Luna or Mars, and seeing that pale blue dot from a fresh perspective...how could that experience possibly be anything but ennobling? One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
But lately, I've come to realize the naiveté and foolishness of this dream. Space is vast and empty and dangerous. Yes, dangerous. We're risking peoples lives and for what? To bring back chunks of rock? That's crazy.
Look, space exploration was fine and dandy when we were up against the Ruskies and we put the stars and stripes on the moon to show them who has the bigger rocket. That space race is over. Since then, America has moved on to new threats, like Islamic terrorism, an increasingly formidable China, and a revanchist Russia. America has moved on from the 1960s, NASA has not.
NASA still plays a vital role in tracking climate change, but let's honest for a second - this isn't some selfless organization intent on making the world a better place, this is a wasteful government bureaucracy trying desperately to justify its billions-per-year budget. They're just lining their pockets on the taxpayer dime. NASA isn't truly interested in global warming; it simply realized that wearing green is a convenient way to get government money.
And speaking of money, these billions of dollars could certainly be put to better use. Instead of building some probe that's just going to drop dead on Mars even if it doesn't crash on the way, we could put it to much more productive endeavors. As a wise man once said, there's no such thing as a free lunch; expenditures in space exploration necessarily divert money away from education, Social Security, etc. Do you think it's right to take money away from Meals On Wheels to fulfill some nerds' fantasies? I don't.
So please, let's all give up this silly dream and refocus our efforts on making this world better. Space will always be out there. Let's deal with our problems here, first.