I agree completely. The technological benefits of returning to space are boundless. There is one intangible difficult to quantify—national pride in being THE country capable of providing much needed advances in technology and bringing forth the possibility of better living standards for the entire world. In my opinion, advances in medicine would be worth the effort. If we could eliminate 10 % of the waste and fraud in the Medicare and Medicade system we could finance NASA in a much more generous fashion.
I don't think any of NASA'a sensible and ultimately useful objectives in space require human presence. unless it's to provide material for press releases and "Discovery channel" documentaries. All of NASA's most impressive work - Hubble, Mars rovers, navigation satellites, apcae borne experiements - are carried out by unmanned craft via telemetry. Cheaper, safer, more productive. In terms of unmanned missions, NASA doesn't need to "return" to space. They are still up there.
@Battar: I agree with you that NASA doesn't need to "return" to space when they are already there. However, I disagree that a human presence in space is unnecessary. There is a lot of exploration that can be carried out by robotic probes, but human spaceflight is an important end in itself.
That being said, William Anders, the astronaut who took the iconic "Earthrise" photo, has said that we shouldn't travel to Mars until we're ready to do so as humans, rather than nationalistic Americans or Russians or Chinese or Indians.
I agree with that sentiment, although I'm not so sure about the possibly centuries-long wait it might impose.
you say that "Human spaceflight is an important end in itself".
What problems does it solve, what scientific or engineering objectives does it meet?
If it's an emotional ideal, it's just not worth the multi-billion dollar investment. Just to put things in perspective, NASA could sent 3 robotic probes to Mars for the price of a single shuttle mission.
As additive manufacturing (including 3D printing) becomes increasingly popular among businesses as a quick and easy solution to creating and evaluating prototypes and end-use products, the debate about whether to outsource production or to purchase equipment for in-house use is at the forefront of industry discussions.
With increasing terrorist threats overseas, organizations are thinking about how best to defend themselves here and abroad. Engineering can play a role, especially when it comes to putting a barrier between yourself and the bad guys.
In the last few years, use of CFD in building design has increased manifolds. Computational
fluid dynamics is effective in analyzing the flow and thermal properties of air within spaces. It can be used in buildings to find the best measures for comfortable temperature at low energy use.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.