This is a big, important question. Space advocates sometimes rely on the very real but insufficient “spinoff” argument, or point to high-paying aerospace jobs as a justification. Sometimes a high-minded rationale that it is the human destiny to “explore” is trotted out.
All these ideas, and many others, have some salience, but compared to the daily cries of humans the world over in desperate need of food, pure water, electricity, and medical care whether as a result of poverty or disaster, or the endless dirge of those suffering from disease, addiction, and other problems in the “rich” countries, they seem lacking.
The answers offered below are many, and may not convince the reader, but taken as whole NSS members find them worthy of your consideration.
- NSS Vision: “People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”
- NSS Mission: “to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity.”
- NSS Rationale – Why Our Mission is Important: Survival, Growth, Prosperity, and Curiosity
- NSS Principles – What Does NSS Stand For?
- NSS Beliefs – What Does NSS Support?
NSS also has a position paper titled “Why Space?”.
NSS member Dale Skran has written an article for Space Review arguing that the only long term reason for humans to be in space is settlement.
NSS publishes a Space Settlement Roadmap that lays out a set of milestones to space development and settlement.
The NSS maintained Space Settlement Nexus contains over 30,000 pages of material on space settlement, including the benefits envisioned.
NSS provides resources on how Space Solar Power can support the needs of both people on Earth and in space.
NSS member John Strickland has provided a short, comprehensive, organized list of all the reasons for being in space that people have thought of so far: Why Explore and Develop Space?