Suppose, a country's government has enough revenue to undertake space research and space exploration missions. It doesn't have any space program.

What kind of benefits would space research and explorations bring to the common people of that country?

  • 4
    Related, possible duplicate: Why is India diverting its resources to build its second mission to Mars?
    – JJJ
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 3:01
  • 4
    Related question on Space SE: space.stackexchange.com/questions/37496
    – CDJB
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 8:51
  • Do you want to know about benefits of space research done anywhere or are you interested in the situation of various other countries already doing space research, what benefits are there for an additional country to join in?
    – quarague
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 10:12
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    I’m voting to close this question because The question asks us to "exclude political [...] benefits" putting it off topic on this forum about politics.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:26
  • You're asking two very different questions: "What's the government's motivation" and "What's in it for common people". Decide which of them you want answers about.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:41

2 Answers 2


Even if there were NO practical benefits, (which I'll show you later there are money) all science begins theoretically. For eg. when Faraday pioneered electromagnetic devices which is used in so many devices such as Car motors, he was asked what it's practical use was, he didn't know.

Other than that space exploration leads to many good impacts for the people. Consumer products like wireless headsets, LED lighting, portable cordless vacuums, freeze-dried foods, memory foam, scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses all of them were derived from space race technology. Increased standard of living, more scientific opportunities for education/employment etc. are just few of so many good reasons to invest in space exploration.

  • And don't forget the countless satellites in Earth orbit which provide all kinds of direct and indirect benefits to citizens. Like accurate weather predictions, TV or GPS. Yes, many of them are privately owned, but they would not exist if government-sponsored space exploration in the 50s and 60s hadn't showed that they are possible.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 9:33
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    I was never convinced by the "space exploration is good because look at the discoveries that have trickled down to everyday living" argument. For one, regardless of how many space-related inventions you'll list, the number will be dwarfed by the number of inventions that don't have any relation to space exploration. Also, even if the development of e.g. wireless headsets has been sped up by space exploration, it's not a given that we wouldn't have them by now even without that accelerator. There's a clear need for wireless audio equipment, and this need would have fueled innovation anyways.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 10:05
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    @Schmuddi don't look at the raw number of "space inventions" vs "non-space inventions", but compare the amount weighted to how much money is being spent. Yes, the budgets of space agencies sound big, because all national agency budgets sound big.
    – Caleth
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 12:25
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    @Caleth: I don't grudge the space agencies their budget – after all, I also work in an academic field that is exclusively funded from public sources. My point is not that the number of "space inventions" is too small to justify the budget, my point is that I question the (unfalsifiable) claim that without space programs, a noticeable number of inventions that improve every-day life would have never been made, and that our lives would be the worse because of it.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 13:40
  • @Schmuddi "regardless of how many space-related inventions you'll list, the number will be dwarfed by the number of inventions that don't have any relation to space exploration." Why do the benefits of one sphere of R&D have to approach the sum total of all other development in society in order to count as significant? Your general point makes sense, but that's an absurd comparison to make; by that logic we can dismiss each and every research program individually because the number of inventions that come out of it are dwarfed by the number of inventions that don't have any relation to it.
    – Ben
    Commented Feb 20, 2022 at 1:03

Maybe there's necessarily not all that much benefit, at a national level for any given country. Though some might benefit. A large, rich country can afford a space program, a poorer or smaller country might put the money to better use elsewhere.

Making claims about space benefits in general is missing the point: a given country can purchase space services from elsewhere (say weather sat reports or crop surveillance). Even launch services for your own country's satellites are widely available. And tech breakthroughs from space are mostly available on the free market.

On the other hand, a country with a large engineering and scientific base may very well benefit from building competency in the space domain.

And some countries may not find it easy, or a good idea, to buy space services off-the-shelf: China's aim to be great power precludes that and North Korea isn't going to be able to buy it.

So it really depends and that's also a bit like building your own military hardware: there's only place for so many national space programs that bring something new to the table rather than being me toos. All the more if you want to sell launch services - those are hugely competitive, on cost and reliability metrics. That's especially true now that rocket tech is evolving so quickly - even established players like Arianespace are being put under pressure, doubly so the Russian program.

But it's not like countries are never known to engage in prestige projects - that's why the term "white elephant" was invented after all. You see this time and again in advanced fields like car manufacturing, jet airliners, etc... Those are rarely obviously a waste in a well-run country, but they still happen.

At another level, there's opportunity for a nice lil bit of space pork too: NASA's SLS for example is years late, billions over budget, will cost ma$$ive per launch. How many Webbs could have built with it? But it will doubtless be defended tooth and nail by lobbyists and congress people: you can mix worthwhile and wasteful programs within the same country.

Last, rather than going all in on your own space program - your own spaceports, your own launchers, your own satellites and deep space probes, you may very well reap good benefits from participating in collaborative programs with others - there's ample space to do so.

(Even though this is a political forum, it doesn't seem unreasonable to discount political reasons, in order to discern if citizens and taxpayers are being sold a dud, for political reasons).

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