Earth is a sparkling jewel in the solar system. Nowhere else can humans and life exist as we know it. Therefore, NASA should concentrate on saving our own planet. Manned spaceflight was borne out of the Cold War. We beat the Soviets to the moon. The USSR collapsed 20 years ago. The United States' manned space program has nothing left to prove. It's time to focus on feeding the hungry, housing the poor and getting jobs for everyone instead of finding out if Mars will be inhabitable 50 years down the road. People are needy now. An old space rock can wait.
No, manned spaceflight is not obsolete, because there are still things that humans can do that machines cannot. It is amazing that human beings can send a man into space and have him or her come back again. That technology allows this to happen is nothing short of an amazing accomplishment. It should be celebrated every time.
The united states is already in over $17,000,000,000,000 dollars in debt. It takes $209,000,000,000 dollars for only one launch. If we keep doing launches everyday citizens have to pay taxes for something that we don't really care about. Then we will start to be in debt. I get it if we need to know if there are meteors or aliens but, we don't want to be in debt!
We should not abandon manned space travel. It is very important that our species explore and one day colonize other worlds. The problem is that we are thinking of the long range mission as a round trip. So our vehicles have to have fuel to get there and back. Why not send a team in a vehicle with enough fuel to get there and enough supplies to last a longer duration. Then smaller unmanned supply vehicles could be sent to sustain them if need be. Once established, more people could be sent to further development. Until we develop better technology / engines that don't rely on traditional fuel sources I believe this is our best choice for further exploration.
Humanity is where it is today because humans continually challenge themselves to learn about the universe outside our current realm of experience. Where would we be had Columbus decided not to find a new route to Asia? Where would science be had Einstein not wondered about a universal theory? We ask ourselves questions but we need to go out to discover it. While, yes, there are places in the world that are undiscovered such as in the rain forest and ocean, why should we limit our understanding to this world? Perhaps we could find new fuel sources or merely something more beautiful than we have ever seen. It doesn’t really matter what we find, we must just continually challenge ourselves to do so. There is so much we don’t understand? Why not take the challenge?
I do not believe that manned spaceflight is obsolete just yet. I don't think it ever should be. Machines and robots can only do so much. There is something about the human perspective that has way more value than just the readings of a few machines and robots. The unfortunate thing is that it is too expensive, and regardless of it being obsolete, it is being phased out due to cost cutting, which is a shame because human perspective on something like space travel is very important.