Short answer: yes…no, wait: hell, yes!
Long answer: well, that’s a question that a recent Space Review article purports to answer…for what it’s worth, I agree with the article’s premise; the problem with recent space films such as Gravity, Elysium and (back in 2008) Wall-E was that either – at best – space was a needless distraction from the problems here on Earth or – worse – that space was a waste of money and resources.
The problem with these arguments is multi-fold in nature…for instance, just think of all the things around us that had – in some manner of speaking – their genesis in space exploration and human spaceflight. Case in point: telecommunications; without those great, grand communications satellites circling in geostationary orbit, good luck finding out what happens on the other side of the world. How about those new solar panels that seem to be popping up everywhere; a good chunk of the technology base that’s made them more-and-more inexpensive came from their usage in space as a ready-made source of energy generation. Just imagine what we could do if we could tap all that solar energy in space and send it down here to Earth, for example…and then tell me space travel’s not worth it.
Of course, there’s also the pioneer spirit inborn in all of us; that sense that’s been a part of the human psyche ever since the first cavemen left the shelter and safety of the caves and began wandering the earth…try to imagine what they thought whenever they looked up at the stars and first thought to themselves, What’s up there? It’s that same exploratory spirit that’s propelled man onwards throughout the ages, the same spirit of wonder and surprise that’s spurred man to travel to distant lands in search of many things – some good, some not-so-good – but the same overarching spirit is there, nonetheless.
Finally, there’s a simple, incalculable thought that should permeate all of us…all of us who believe in space exploration and who support human spaceflight and its’ that while humans are creatures of this earth, like every creature that’s born, there comes a time when we must leave the safety of that proverbial cave and explore the multitudes around us. Does this mean we ignore the problems around us? No, not for a moment…but it also doesn’t mean that we shrink back and say its’ not worth it; to do that would be to say to the Yuri Gagarins’ and Ed Whites’ of the world that their collective sacrifices weren’t worth it..and what would it say to future generations if they were to ask why we didn’t take the opportunity, the chance, to explore the universe around us…those are questions that we shouldn’t ask, because man in an exploratory creature by his very nature and habit and we should always remember the prophetic words of Konstantin Tsilokovsky, who once said…
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.