The technology that emerged from the space race was monumental to our current way of life. Everything from communications to manufacturing systems have greatly benefited from taking on a challenge that wouldn't be undertaken due to the enormous cash flow requirements spanned out across decades. Market structures at the present are heavily dependent upon short term profitability, and without public sector input a great deal of current research would go unfunded.
Is it your belief that only profitable endeavors are worthy? Curing cancer vs. treating it is less profitable to big pharma than it is to retail.