The microelectronics and computers which we depend upon today for example were developed in part by the need to miniaturize electronics for the Apollo mission. Those over a certain age will remember bulky tube radios as well as the smaller transistor radios which replaced them. It was the absolute necessity to make small computers for the space program which greatly accelerated this development.
|Dust Covering Mars Rover Spirit's
Working with NASA, Malay Mazumder, invented the way to do the job at Boston University:
As with microelectronics, while it would be useful to have self-cleaning solar panels on earth, alternatives are workable if time and energy consuming, such as spraying water on them. A hundred million miles from humanity, that option doesn't exist, and this necessity is what drove the demand to create self-cleaning panels. Perhaps this technology would have been developed sometime soon without the absolute need for use on Mars--or perhaps not. Result: more efficient solar generation on Earth!
Here's another: radar technology developed to locate subsurface water on Mars will now be used to find water deep under the deserts on earth!
Now imagine the demand to create an almost closed ecosystem to support Moon and Mars colonists for months and years at a time, and you get an idea of how this demand may benefit the environment on Earth.
Space exploration is indeed an investment which will be paid back many times over in technological advances to improve our lives and clean up the environment. We can't afford not to invest in space exploration.