Click the arrow to watch the film on YouTube. Video source: NASA.gov Video YouTube channel.
Is human spaceflight a waste of money?
Here's another example that the answer is no.
NASA has posted an article about the results of immune system research aboard the International Space Station.
Data generated early in NASA’s Integrated Immune study indicated that the distribution of immune cells in the blood of crew members aboard the space station is relatively unchanged during flight. However, they also revealed that some cell function is significantly lower than normal, or depressed, and some cell activity is heightened. In a sense, the immune systems of crew members are confused.
When cell activity is depressed, the immune system is not generating appropriate responses to threats. This may also lead to the asymptomatic viral shedding observed in some crew members, which means latent, or dormant, viruses in the body reawaken, but without symptoms of illness. When activity heightens, the immune system reacts excessively, resulting in things like increased allergy symptoms and persistent rashes, which have been reported by some crew members.
Why does this matter?
For long-duration spaceflight such as a three-year round trip to Mars, it means another problem to be resolved before we send humans. Looked at another way, it's another argument in favor of sending robotic craft instead of people.
For pharmaceutical companies, a microgravity platform such as the ISS can save years of clinical trials. I wrote in July 2013 about five medical discoveries made in microgravity either on the market or in clinical trials. Amgen took advantage of microgravity to accelerate the testing of Prolia on mice. Since bone loss happens much more quickly in microgravity, it can be demonstrated more quickly if the product works (or doesn't).
The potential for research and eventually production of products in microgravity is why you see so many companies lining up to use the ISS and future platforms, such as the Bigelow Aerospace expandable habitats and an autonomous version of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser.