I'm an HPC professional, and do not see much value in these "hero" machines. Yes, you can go on all you want about the march of progress and tier-1 and grand challenges, but you're just reiterating an unquestioned manifest destiny-based view of history. Why do we need an Exaflop machine? is it because some particular set of applications need it? where is the threshold for those applications where the compute facility will be fast enough to achieve some breakthrough?
it's hard to find areas that are primarily limited by compute facilities. for instance, genetics/proteomics/metabilomics/whatever are *not* compute-limited, especially at the high end. they're laboratory-limited, the same way weather simulations are good and getting better, but not past the quality of their input data.
we need more compute in general, but not necessarily in one machine. a single exaflop machine will cost much more than a thousand petaflop machines. letting a thousand flowers bloom is much prettier than one excruciatingly beautiful flower...
and no, hero machines do not provide an efficient way to improve the tech of lesser or later machines. they have to be justified by their own need.