I tend away from the notion of people flying in space at this fairly primitive time of rocket propulsion,
preferring instead that more Hubble-type, Viking-type and Explorer-type satellites be launched. I admit, though, that I like the idea of people travelling to Mars, because I believe that more science could get done with humans driving the rover. My hope is that the first man on Mars will say "Deejah Thoris, we are here!", but perhaps the first person on Mars will be a woman, who can say "Hail Barsoom! Hail Helium!", because those words are better, in my view, than "John Carter, my Prince!".
I am a fan of space exploration, but I do imagine what we could do on Earth if we funded exploration of our own planet with a NASA-like enthusiasm. A mission to the deepest seas can be done for millions. There are ancient cities under earth and undersea. A single jam jar of protozoa can contain a world of wonders yet to be fully explored. Indeed, why talk about terraforming the Moon, when we could be terraforming the downtown area of any number of cities to make them more suitable for human life?
Imagine all the things we could learn (or, as Dr. Seuss said "Oh! The Places We'll Go!". We could find all the darter fish in all the ponds and note their shimmering colors in Spring. We could cure most mental disease, knock out AIDS and take a bite out of cancer. We could work on providing affordable generic drugs to everyone.
I believe that science can be the tool for physical transformation. But it takes money. Let's go to Mars.
But perhaps let's make Earth more habitable. Definitely, let's make Earth more fun. What if there is an Atlantis? What if the life expectancy in Africa were 75? What if we noted our history, and learned from our mistakes? Who knows what strange new worlds await us?