James van Allen, who discovered the radiation belt (and then had them named after him by the scientific community), posed a question to Issues in Science and Technology: Why do we keep exploring space?
His big concern (at least from the linked article) is that we may just be doing it for the adventure, climbing the mountain because it's there, so to speak. My question is, what's wrong with that? How man wonderful or essential things have been discovered in the world because someone was just doing something for the hell of it? Never mind that often the point of further our abilities in one area (say, space exploration) leads to huge advances in other areas (like aerospace or Velcro).
I know he's a very well-respected scientist, and deservedly so, but he's off on this one. Even if we never find anything more than a microbe on Mars, getting there and back will have brought so many more things to the everyday person, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.
Link [via Slashdot]