Remembering the SSC
Just think of what we would know if since 1970s we had diverted NASA's manned space flight budget into building bigger and bigger atom smashers...
The shuttle and space station were indeed tragic wastes. I'm a fan of manned space flight myself, but I think we have to say that NASA in the 70's wanted to pursue manned space flight in the worst possible way - and they did. Like George W and the invasion of Iraq.
We can't really know if completing the rather embarassingly named Superconducting Supercollider would have advanced our knowledge of physics, but if it hadn't, it would have put the whole subject to sleep for a century or so.
Of course it's pretty obvious now that the $5 billion saved by killing off the SSC is drarfed by all sorts of other government blunders: $300 billion (1960's dollars) for Vietnam, $100 billion for the shuttle - space station disaster, and somewhere between $500 billion to a $trillion for GW's Iraq adventure. And don't let me forget the $300 or so billion that went for the savings and loan bailout - essentially reimbursement of savings account holders for money stolen by Neil Bush and his many cohorts.