Look up and tell me what you see. OK... bad idea. You're reading this on a computer, and so you're probably indoors. The next time you step outside, though, take a moment to ponder the limitless expanse above us. Assuming no clouds or trees block your view, you are essentially looking in a line trillions of miles long. Moving your head ever so slightly to one side, and you are looking down an entirely different line. Space basically goes forever, and the drive that brought Christopher Columbus to the Americas similarly drives us to venture into the unknown that is space.
If the ideal of exploration doesn't appeal to you, perhaps species survival will. I won't be so bold as to say that we are living on borrowed time, but chances are good that, in the long run, Earth will experience a catastrophic event. Asteroids, comets, volcanoes, and global warming all pose similar threats to human existence. Should something like this occur, the human species would do well to have inhabited other worlds.
Finally, we have the short-term benefits of such exploration. Already, we have seen many tangible benefits of space exploration, including GPS and satellite-based television. I will delve into these in a post later this week. There are many other areas where microgravity and orbiting the Earth may have an enormous impact: chemistry, materials science, biology, communication, the list goes on. Whereas our airplanes can simulate microgravity for sub-minute durations, building equipment in space adds a new dimension to microgravity science.
Yes, exploration is in our blood, as is survival. We also, however, have a giant laboratory above us. It would be a shame for us to forget about it. One of the many mandates of government is to pay for public works: projects that are simply too large of a burden for any single non-governmental entity to manage. As of now, using space exploration is one of these duties.