In answer to your questions and concerns Greg, I also came from the old school. I was 4 years old when we first landed on the moon, and the entire Apollo program left a deep mark on my developing psyche. I have always sided with humans in the humans vs. robots debate. Obviously it is more economical to send robots, but it defeats the whole purpose of why we explore in the first place.
Imagine if robotic technology developed to its current state around 1800. Rather than send Lewis and Clarke on a cross-country expedition, we sent robots. The fiscal conservatives would've had good grounds for saying that we need to limit more risky human exploration of the western frontier in favor of robots. Obviously the circumstances are quite different, since in our current case it requires a quantum leap in cost to achieve the same thing with humans in space, but the reasons remain the same. In parallel with the western frontier, despite a quantum leap in cost we get a quantum leap in human freedom. The fact that humans did explore the western frontier allowed those who pioneered it to experience a degree of freedom that the most rabid libertarian can barely imagine. The human colonization of space has offered the same promise to an exponentially greater degree for those willing to risk it. This has been my operating paradigm since I was 12 years old.
Then along comes the nanotechnological ideas of Drexler which for the most part deepens all my previous convictions about the imperative to colonize space. With nanotech and zero-g, all of the trickier problems of space colonization become easy, and the freedom pontentials exponentiate even further.
It is my feeling now, that any substantial effort made to colonize space will ultimately be a huge and wasteful boondoggle without the assistance of nanotechnology. And ironically the same nanotech that allows us to colonize space is the same nanotech that will allow us to go beyond the human form. And it is in this hope, that I stand by my earlier conviction that we as *conscious* entities become the 'robots' and not as Hans Moravec proposes be *replaced* by them. Future nanotech and singularity issues not withstanding, if we are to eventually achieve any sort of freedom equivalent to the early pioneers, then space is where we must go - whether we go as humans or post-humans is no longer relevant.