Why isn't the church taking care of women, infants, and children? Surely the 80% of Americans who are Christians can come up with $500 million? That's what Christ commanded us to do. If the Christians in America were doing what our God told us to do, we would not need the government to legislate charity (which is not charity, incidentally, because it is taken by force and not given freely).
We individuals, however, are not capable of shooting people into deep space. Such bold steps taken by governments is why any of us are living in the Americas at all. Besides the natural outgrowths of exploration (colonization, discovery of resources, etc) there are countless advancements to everyday life brought to us by space exploration. Here is just a small list of modern everyday necessities (even for women, infants, and children) that were created by or spun off from the needs of space science:
Satellite techologies (TV, GPS, Internet, communications, mapping, management, tracking, etc.)
Battery technology (cordless tools, etc)
Water purification technology
Body imaging (MRI, CAT Scans)
Countless composite and alloy materials
Countless medicines and medical discoveries related to microgravity and living in it
Moonsuit fabric (used for stadium roofs and other things)
Advanced padding material
Art analysis (e.g., underpaint scanning)
Robotic Sow (automated feeding of baby animals at farms)
Firefighter breathing systems
Jaws of Life
High-tech crop planting (e.g., Disney's "The Land")
Oil spill cleanup
Necessity is the mother of invention. Take away the necessity, and you take away the advancements. Without space exploration, many of these things probably would not have been invented. Certainly not at the rate at which they were. Space exploration is the catalyst behind the invention of countless new technologies that we can no longer live without.
Launching the Shuttle is indeed expensive. Though it is less than half of the cost you cited, at about $450 million
. I think the Shuttle program was a money pit for the most part. That is why we were moving to the cheaper and flexible Constellation program with the Ares + Orion launch system. Until the president and Congress killed it, that is.