questionsdo you think space exploration will ever be a…

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Yes. I don't know when, but I think there will be a discovery of some kind, some day and our economy will be much better and we will become involved in space exploration again. It may not be for a very, very long time, but I think it will happen.

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Not until people are willing to pay for it again.

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As you mentioned the cost-benefit isn't there. When the program started out, we weren't sure what we would find or how it would benefit us. It was exciting and worth investigating. Now that we've seen that there's really nothing out there for the most part, it's hard to expect that anyone would invest significant amounts of money into something that's been pretty much fruitless. There would have to be some kind of big breakthrough in technology that would make it feasible.

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I'm a mechanical engineer and I live less than an hour from Kennedy Space Center so maybe I'm a bit biased, but I'm sure that space exploration will be a big deal again. NASA recently opened applications for astronauts for the Mars mission and the number of applicants was the highest it's been since the 60s or 70s. If and when we do go to Mars, I guarantee that people will be excited about that. Heck, we haven't even been to the moon since 1972. And as far as there not being much benefit from the space program, there has been a lot of technology from LEDs to freeze drying that have come from the space program. (A full list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off) And who knows, maybe one day Star Trek will become a reality, and that would certainly be exciting.

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Probably not until people know exactly why it matters. Who cares if we land on Mars? Really.. who cares? Would we land there for the sake of it? What does it matter how weightlessness affects mice carrying kernels of corn?

But, aside from just people not really knowing the reasons we go to space, the fact of going doesn't seem as much of a big deal as it used to be. We used to watch every launch in school. Of anything and everything on TV. I don't think the younger generations think it's as much of a big deal as we did.

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If a more conservative government takes over, we will not see funding for the space program for a generation. It is viewed as frivolous spending by the don't-tax-me people in power, unless it pertains to national defense.
If a more liberal government is in power, perhaps we will see growth in the program, but unless the economy improves, it will be slow to grow.

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Space is a big deal right now!

Maybe you haven't been watching the same news I have, but we just had a private company (with government funding) successfully launch and dock a module with the space station. That same company is just a few steps away from manned flights.

And did we forget that Branson is working on a commercial space tourism project? In our lifetimes we may all have an opportunity for a short space flight.

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@olperfesser: It was the Obama administration that cancelled the Orion program, It isn't quite that black and white.

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I think it will be soon. In some circles it already is. I've seen articles about discovering such and such a planet, and what it can potentially mean for us. The more we find and more particularly the more planets we find that can potentially sustain life, the more interesting the public will get.

I think within the next few decades, commercial space travel could become a thing as well (I feel like I read that somewhere), and that would also really reinvigorate peoples interest in space.

There's tons and tons of really exciting awesome stuff going on. It just gets very little media attention.

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A lot of companys are very intrested in space, and Bill Stone is at the front of the pack. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/bill_stone_explores_the_earth_and_space.html

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Yes, and it will start to grow more in the private sector where there is money and room for investment.

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No, the era of big space is over, at least for the forseeable future. We (and everybody else) do not have the funds for it. The big space projects took place in the 1960s and early 1970s. What happened at the same time? Four words. Great Society, Medicare, Medicaid. With so much going to entitlement spending there isn't going to be any left (moving forward) for anything discretionary. Like space. Or defense.

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I wish, but unlikely. I agree it will probably just become the domain of the private sector. (Ads in space, anyone? :( )

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@olperfesser: This isn't a partisan issue, you have believers in space in power and disbelievers. JFK was a believer, Nixon wasn't, Reagan was, Clinton and Bush I didn't care. Bush II kind of did, and Obama campaigned on axing it.

The ball's in Congress's court too here.

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Sadly I don't think people take the time to look beyond their own short term life so no space exploration is dead unless there was a short term gain. No one seems to have a stomach for the bigger picture anymore and the US doesn't seem to have the money.

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Like others have said I think our immediate space funding is going to come from the private sector. It could become a big deal if there is a significant breakthrough in technology.

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Would be great if it did. I also wouldn't mind if science fiction also took a break from dystopia and contagion and got back a sense of gee whiz exploration. Just ran across a Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/420606009/fight-for-space-space-program-and-nasa-documentary for a documentary called "Fight For Space," which sounds like the filmmaker's diving into NASA vs. private investment and development, where we (aka the USA) are, where we've been + why we should get back in front. I'm interested to see how + if it turns out.