I like the Onion. But people don’t just support NASA for one reason. I worked there for many years. There are a huge number of dedicated and visionary people, employees and contractors. Including Boeing contractors.
Never, in any pursuit, have I met so many people who felt that what they were doing was worthwhile, sometimes regardless of what they got out of it, personally.
Naturally, there’s money involved. Careers to be made. But it’s the only job I’ve had which I don’t feel I would ever need to apologize for.
The issues are how we, as society allocate resources, and how researchers in the space sciences get a share of those resources.
Exploring space is basic science. No basic science research can say what kind of applied science will come of it, but often it does … eventually. The motivation is just the drive to understand the universe around us; technologic innovations are side effects.
Within the space sciences researchers debate priorities, heck even within subdisciplines they don’t agree. For example, here are some snippets from Science about how infighting among planetary scientists threaten funding: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/295/5552/32
And that audience must satisfy the audience of the public that monies are being wisely spent. For that pitch you need some high publicity, catch the public imagination, programs. Looking for “life”, humans in space, are just more likely to do that, even if they are a less efficient way of spending the money.
I never said absolute zero, I said “deep cold”. Where did the ‘sulky’ reside during it’s transit to the moon? In a closed compartment in the base of the LEM. Protected from the sun. Plenty of time for the tires to radiate their latent heat down to a value that would freeze yer buns off. Then, shortly after landing, they were placed in direct radiant sunlight and exposed to already heated soil and rock, and were expect to perform up to snuff.