If [people] are starving, why should a government spend money on space exploration?
Recently, India was publicly asked this question with the launch of their Mars orbiter.
Ernst Stuhlinger once infamously answered this query by a nun. His eloquent response boiled down to this: research is necessary to improve the lives of people in the future, and we cannot only look at the suffering of the present.
Various studies have shown the correlation between research funding and a country’s GDP growth a decade later. It boils down to an idea that makes intuitive sense: R&D is necessary to develop the technologies new companies are based on. Although these ideas are not without controversy, declining R&D budgets (of all types, not just space) are cause for concern.
For all people who love space, the best response to this question is to share benefits humanity has gotten from space research. For ideas, see my previous post about Dr. Robinson’s ISS top ten or NASA spin offs.