There’s an interesting discussion on the future of space exploration and research and manned space travel in particular going on in the comments section of this post at Econbrowser. Go over and put in your two cents.
One thing I think that many of the commenters who pooh-pooh the continuation of manned space flight are missing is what’s referred to as the romance of manned space travel. That romance is why we have a pilotable shuttle rather than relatively cheap one-use rockets. I doubt that any space program public or private can really maintain legs without it.