40 years on, was it/is it worth it? Should we, as someone suggested to me today, spend the money allocated for the space program to fix health care? Should we take care of the problems at home, rather than mess around up there? Yes the Apollo program was worth it and yes, we should continue to explore the universe. Of course we have pressing needs on earth (as we did 40 years ago), but eliminating funding for manned space flight isn’t going to solve those problems.
The space program is good because pure scientific research is necessary and productive in the long run. It provides benefits (not actually Tang), but new technologies and materials in the shorter run. But maybe most importantly it provides a sense of wonder that is one of the things that makes use human.
I remember watching the first moon walk on my parent’s black and white TV, listening to Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra narrate the space program, visiting the old air and space museum every Sunday and standing in line for hours to see the moon rock, and later, my English uncle’s elderly father (visiting America for the first time) being astounded that he could actually touch a sliver of the moon.
So, the space program fires our imagination and makes us aware of our place in the universe. It also encourages young people to become interested in science and technology and pursue those careers which will benefit society. I’m glad we did it – and, within the confines of current budgetary realities, we ought to do it again.