Man didn't go to the moon because someone was curious about the big yellow thing in the sky and build a rocket. No, the main drive was prestige between countries, and funding by the the "authorities".
Ech -- that's why the funding showed up, sure. Money could explain plenty, even perhaps why scientists were designing and mission controllers were expending such great effort. They didn't want to lose their jobs, or they had a nice steady income, or they wanted the (relative) prestige that comes with working somewhere like that.
You might even argue that some of the first few humans who went up in space vehicles did so because they were motivated by prestige. It could be argued, but I wouldn't believe it. People have a tendency to look for easy jobs if all they care about is the money, and it's a hell of a lot easier for them to stay right on the nice safe ground instead of getting in that odd-looking thing with the "controlled" detonation device on the rear end. There's plenty of research that you can do right here on Earth, and there's plenty of extremely delicate instruments you could ship to the Moon for getting data with. The reason the money showed up was prestige, and the reason the scientific community went with it could perhaps be the same.
Maybe some went up for the sake of prestige, but I find it hard to believe that nobody, not one single astronaut, willingly climbed into something that would very well kill them except for one thing: They wanted to see the Earth as no one else had, and the Moon beneath their feet.
There's not any one thing that makes a scientific advancement, but these curious people have to be around, or else you don't find truly obtuse techniques. They have to do crazy things, sometimes at great personal risk, or else there's 'regular' or even slow progress.
Besides, if someone's funded to do research, it doesn't mean that they're not curious. It means they got lucky, that the local economy either valued the specific thing they were researching or, for whatever reason, valued scientific research as its own goal. (Rare, sure, but it happens.) If a scientist gets paid to research something they don't care about, sometimes they end up putting the funds towards their research in something they do care about.
You are what you think.
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