Interesting take, very little of it is true accept in a sort of back of the napkin, hand-wavy, guess at the numbers kind of thing. And those sort of theories always work out the way you want them to in the beginning.
He3 not worth it because we don't have the reactor for it? We don't have a reactor because we don't have the fuel. It isn't cost effective to get the fuel because we don't have the reactor... Same reason we never should have left floppy disks for CDs because it wasn't cost effective, (the exact argument that was made all the time in the 80s), which is why we still use floppy disks and drive buggies because it is prohibitively expensive to build the infrastructure to switch over to the internal combustion engine. That's just one case. And it's enough to address the whole, there's nothing up there worth getting side.
The other side of the cost effectiveness is that it's cost to orbit is always computed as if the entire next launch has the same cost as the initial. Space X is working on reusing over 80% of their entire booster for a reason. It would never have made sense to invest in this whole "new world" if your business plan was sending 3-5 guys in a single ship, having them do a half-assed scout of less than a square mile of turf and bring back whatever they managed to find in 72 hours on the ground. The whole idea of the established countries of Europe investing in and kind of serious enterprise on the other side of the Atlantic would have been untenable.
I'm sure there a lot of people who will always say it's a waste of time and money. But if it's not their money either directly or through taxation then it's not their say right? The bottom line to make space work is to stay there and build an infrastructure. That was never going to happen on a government dollar. Private industry it building a variety of technologies to get to and make use of space in all the multiple ways that it makes sense. Just take a look at the number of companies that are investing in private space exploration. It's well past the tipping point, and there are quite a few proven companies and/or investors that have a strong history of making money earning investments that are involved. They are there because they've been able to make a solid business case for a particular area of investment.
So long as it's private investment money it's okay to let the companies take whatever risks they can justify and get the money and people to back. Look out for the next big push to claim that it's unsafe and people shouldn't be allowed to do it because of OSHA type regs. And that we are ruining the environment of space. Oh and that if anyone does invest in space and it starts to pay off then the new "buggy whip" industries will require government protection against unfair competition from the companies that did invest. What space needs to work is for all the governments to agree to stay out of the way. Legit safety concerns about not dropping a failed launcher onto a populate area are one thing. We just don't need them to be putting the brakes on the whole thing under the guise of protecting people from themselves.
Doc I guess our pet peeves just clash. I've seen real numbers run years ago and there was ample reason to invest in space in the 50's. What we did with Apollo was a great achievement in human history but it was never a serious attempt to make space pay off. And it still had lots of spin off technology down here that did make it a net benefit but the space program itself wasn't really about getting to space and making use of it.
The ISS was the very beginning of learning what it would take to live and work in space and it ended up being a mess because of being tied to a political budge cycle where a long-term investment is a whole two years. After that you have to do another complete re-evaluation before you can proceed. How much of the cost of the station was satisfying the congress critters before and after every election cycle? How much money was spent not on bending metal but on lobbying for the next 1 years budget for our 10 year program? They want to know why it runs a decade or more over and billions over budget? There's one. Why were we still flying a 1970s tech space truck until 2012? Because it's impossible to get a congressman to invest in infrastructure the way and competent CFO would. I don't know why it took the JSA and ESA so long to get off the mark, maybe the same political problems, maybe waiting to see what we'd do, who knows?
You want to see where the future of Space is going? Follow what Buzz Aldrin has been saying in every forum where he could get anyone to listen since the end of the Apollo program.