At 8:30 PM yesterday, a rover as heavy as a small car landed on Mars.
The Mars Curiosity Rover also known as the Mars Science Laboratory sent back a picture of it's wheel on the Martian surface. The landing went in multiple stages, you couldn't just surround it with balloons like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and let it hit the ground - it was too big! A rocket-powered crane hovered 20 feet in the air to lower the rover safely to the ground. This feat cost a whopping 2.5 billion dollars. That seems like a lot, until you consider the fact that the ENTIRE MISSION cost a little less than two and a half B-2 stealth bombers. So really it's pretty cheap. That rocket-crane trick WILL come in useful in the future, for carefully lowering heavy things where there is no atmosphere. It was a worthwhile investment, especially compared to the expenditure of killing people.
Of course, the local newspaper was FULL of online comments about this "Boondoggle" costing "so much money" and someone actually asked "What has the space program done directly for you, ever?"
So I think I will come up with a short list. But before that, I would like to mention, that the amount of money spent in 2011 on the military (JUST 2011) is more than NASA has ever spent. Ever. From the very beginning. In addition, a few years back we gave even MORE money to a bunch of bankers to reward them for crashing the economy, and that amount of money is about $150 Billion
more than the entire budget of NASA, from the very beginning. And I can promise you that NASA has done more for each of you, directly, than a banker ever has or will.
So, on to a short list of what NASA has done for you:
Disposable diapers (Don't sit there and tell me you've never used or worn one)
Miniature Electronics (Cell phones that do more than a computer did ten years ago.)
Good rechargeable batteries
Weather tracking (hurricanes and thunderstorms)
Flat panel screens
SMALL flat panel screens
Global Positioning Satellites
The ability to watch the Oympics, no matter where they are and where you are.
All these 18" Directv dishes on people's roof
Heat resistant ceramics