Maciej Ceglowski has written an oustanding piece on what’s wrong with the US manned space program. No argument here.
But NASA dismisses such helpful suggetions [about discontinuing manned space altogether] as unworthy of its mission of ‘exploration’, likening critics of manned space flight to those Europeans in the 1500’s who would have cancelled the great voyages of discovery rather than face the loss of one more ship.
Of course, the great explorers of the 1500’s did not sail endlessly back and forth a hundred miles off the coast of Portugal, nor did they construct a massive artificial island they could repair to if their boat sprang a leak. And we must remember that space is called space for a reason – there is nothing in it, at least not where the Shuttle goes, save for a few fast-moving pieces of junk from the last few times we went up there, forty years ago. The interesting bits in space are all much further away, and we have not paid them a visit since 1972.