I am not saying there's no advantage to space exploration, but I simply wonder why we continue to do these things yet we have a very big [budget] deficit. Why?
Apart from knowledge of how space works, what has the ordinary American gained from the billions spent on the space program? Can anyone point me to any tangible or intangible goods resulting from space exploration?
Because each time we overcome a monumental challenge for the first time, we expand the frontier of human knowledge and endeavor.
As our frontier expands, that which was undone becomes possible; that which was possible, replicable; that which was replicable, automatable; that which was automatable, trivial; that which was trivial, obsolete.
Just over a century ago, tinkers managed to propel a glorified kite a few feet through the air. The tangible benefit of this flight of fancy is that today, we complain about the comfort of the seats in mass-produced aircraft that can send us around the globe for a historically infinitesimal cost in time and money.
Seventy years ago, the US government was one year into the construction of ENIAC, one of the first general-purpose digital computers ever created. Upon its completion two years later, it would occupy 680 square feet, require the power of roughly six modern households, process up to 500 operations per second, and spend roughly half its time being repaired. The tangible benefit of this monstrosity is that today you likely carry, on your person, roughly 25 million times more computing power than ENIAC. It is quite likely that use the bulk of this computing power primarily for your own personal entertainment.
45 years ago, after years of research and significant government funding, ARPANET was launched. Not many people expected it to be of any significant practical value; in fact, the first message ever sent over ARPANET only managed to deliver two characters before crashing the entire network for an hour. The tangible benefit of this boondoggle is that today, we have the Internet, the direct descendant of ARPANET.