, , , ,

I just watched my first real-time shuttle launch.  Until about 10 minutes ago, I’ve only seen recorded versions of the launch.  I have to say, It was fascinating and nerve-racking at the same time.  Remember, I’m a part of the generation that was in 4th grade when the Challenger blew up and the major networks showed it over and over and over for weeks on end.  This is why it was nerve- for me to watch the launch today.  Right when the camera showed that familiar shot of the shuttle, boosters and all, I winced, waiting for tragedy.

But all went well today.  Flawless launch, from what I can tell.  As I walked back from the lunch room with my viewing buddies I found myself asking the question again,

“What actual, long term benefits – for the costs and risks we invest – does the US space program bring us?”

I once asked this question to a co-worker a few years ago and received quite the unanticipated reaction.  That’s cool.  I get it that some are die-hard fans of the space program.  That’s fine.  I’m not knocking things like exploration, discovery and learning either.  I’m just asking the broader question of value.  For the billions(trillions?) we pour into it (which, by the way, we don’t really have) coupled with the risk of life, is the return worth it?
What do you think?