It was on a long-haul flight many months ago that I recalled a visit to the National Air and Space Museum  to a fellow passenger whom I struck up conversation with. Asking if I could recommend somewhere to visit in Washington DC, I recounted how I had spent an entire day amazing at the collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft on my only visit to that city fifteen years or so previous as a young adult — and as always a kid at heart.
Seeing the sheer scale of the F-1 engine for the Saturn 5 rocket first hand, stepping inside an Apollo command module identical to those used during the Apollo program, not to mention seeing full life-size replicas of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, an Apollo Lunar Module and for some reason what seemed most surreal to me… the Viking 1 Lander. This was enchantment.
However, for all the amazement that such a museum can provide, it is also a saddening reminder that what once was the forefront of human ambition and endeavor has now been largely resigned to history. NASA budgets are cut annually  whilst military expenditure takes ever more precedence. A planned six percent budget decrease in 2013 is the equivalent savings to three hours of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Instead of reaching to explore outer-space we are encouraged to get excited about the equivalent billions  invested on science exploring the subatomic inner-space world. Meanwhile, we tend to forget that the ambitions of space exploration are not just to satisfy some wide-eyed childhood yearning to explore, but the serious and sobering prospect of needing to ensure that we as a species can eventually colonize to other worlds and ensure we are not counting down the days to our extinction on an ever-more-precarious planetary solitude.
In the face of such indifference, such concepts of lifeboats have become marginalized to what is perceived to be a realm solely for loons and dreamers, or ‘space cadets’ as we used to call them back in the days of school. The trillion dollar question really is what it takes to redirect all that military investment into science & exploration instead. It is down to credibility. Governments shy away from investing public funds when there is a lack of credibility.
It was an easy sell to the public to invest in the military after the tragic events of 9/11 and terrorist threats which were presented largely by propaganda/disinformation to the public as an existential risk to the free world. The purse strings opened and an unforgivable amount of expenditure was invested on the military in the subsequent years. Let us hope that it does not take unprecedented natural disasters  to awaken the world to the fact that it is nature which poses much greater existential risks to the survival of our society in the long-term.