Ben Wright McGee has a long essay on old space versus new, which I think misses the point, because he seems to think that space is about exploration, and then gets bogged down in the pointless argument of whether or not suborbital flight constitutes such:
In almost back-to-back recent events, what to me is an example of the true nature of the conflict between the many colliding conceptions of astronauts, space explorers, and space exploration was brought into sharp relief:
On the one hand, a NASA historian who I greatly respect alleged to me that private suborbital spaceflight and even new, commercial orbital space modules and transportation systems (which have recently received NASA funding to enhance the U.S. space infrastructure and give scientists more platforms and opportunities to conduct research), were patently unworthy of NASA dollars.
Existing Russian and U.S. systems should be relied upon, and the already pinched NASA budget, he implied, should be saved and consolidated for the more worthy endeavor of exploring truly uncharted planetary territory.
To me, this is all beside the point. There is an implicit assumption that the purpose of human spaceflight is to explore space, but that has never, ever been the case. In the sixties, its purpose was to beat the Soviets in a peaceful contest in the Cold War, and since then it’s been largely a jobs program — “exploration” was just the excuse, despite the fact that we haven’t left LEO. To me, exploration is a means, not an end. The goal of human spaceflight should be to develop the resources of and settle space, and if we’re not doing that (which we currently are not, at least NASA isn’t), then we should quit wasting money on it. But we remain stuck in this “exploration” mindset because we’ve never had a real national debate on why we’re spending this money, instead talking with hidden assumption that we all assume are shared by others, even though they clearly are not.