There are so many side-benefits to the process and technology of space exploration, but those aren't why we must explore. What might we learn by building a space infrastructure, or from our explorations? We can't know until we do it. And we certainly can't discount the instinctual need to explore our universe, or the romance and drama of exploration that fills us with pride and lets us dream of a brighter future again. But when it comes down to it, the real reason we need to move into space is for our very health and long-term survival.
Our nation and in fact all of humanity needs to continue to grow, because once we stop growing, we begin dying. The Earth is too crowded and over-used for continued growth. A single catastrophe (such as an asteriod collision) could wipe out all of humanity -- can we take that risk? Space offers so many ways to improve human life, not the least of which is a new frontier. "We cannot live in the cradle forever."
Where do the non-W candidates stand on space exploration and development? I sure hope our Dems don't come out conservative against space... it's amazing that Bush (as crony-ish and conservative as they get) supports progressive space exploration! I doubt he means it, though, because his timelines reach beyond his presidency, so he will not have to support it or pay for it when NASA is in need. And the funding doesn't seem anywhere near enough to do the tasks he declared today.
I have heard the why-nots re: space exploration, and they bore me. For example, "We shouldn't waste money on space when we have so many troubles at home." Or, "We've made such a mess of Earth that we should clean up our own room before playing in the back yard."
That's like saying, "I shouldn't look for a better job because I have so many bills to pay and don't want to risk losing my job," or "We shouldn't spend the money and effort on researching new medicine/technologies/whatever because we need to feed people now." Or, "We shouldn't develop new automotive technologies until we have reversed the greenhouse effect."
When we stop thinking in terms of improving ourselves generations in the future and instead keep our eyes focused carefully on the ground, that's when we as a people or even species are headed for the dust-bin of history.
Just ranting. I wish W wasn't the one who came out pro-space first. Feh.