Seems like for the current administration space science basically has two main reasons: “Bush’s new space policy had a partly political genesis, with presidential advisers saying that it emerged from a White House search for a bold goal that would help unify the nation before Bush’s reelection race and portray him as visionary. […] Officials said the lunar and Mars program will have a military component, noting that the Pentagon will be consulted and may help with launches.” (full story) So astronomical research is basically only good if it helps to detract from a miserable presidency and to get the military into space?
Not that this is any news. Scientists have for decades said that manned space stations orbiting Earth are a waste of money as the research you get out of them is pretty much negligible. But here we are, building a space station….
Disclaimer: I’m an astrophysicist.