Rand ignores several facts. First, the public was excited when men walked on the moon--the first time. The public became bored with each lunar expedition that followed. I think there were a couple of reasons for this. One, (and Rand has a point here) it did not appear that lunar exploration would ever progress beyond "a few government employees."
Speaking as someone that was not actually alive when the Moon landings happened, the most inspiring thing that NASA ever did was land on the Moon. I can't stress how much of an effect the whole concept has on a dreaming stupid kid.
I read books on Apollo, not like they were some sort of mundane mission report, but like they were an adventure tale. It's an extremely romantic notion to think that that strange disk in the sky way above had humans on it once. No matter what the generation starry eyed idiots like myself will forever be mesmerized by the idea.
Slowly over time the dream wears off. And most come to the realization that a "few government employees" are really the only ones that will ever get to go.
Simberg is right in the sense that a return to the Moon will produce no more long term excitement than the last one did if it ends up being a "plant a flag in the ground" job.
But in the short term people would definitely be excited. Maybe not necessarily the US, but imagine the case for other nations. Right know only Americans have ever made it into Space. As Europe, Japan, and China make it to the Moon fascination with Space exploration will reach a global appeal. I'm sure that the Japanese would go nuts over the first Japanese moon landing. And I find it hard to believe that Americans would not tune in to see Americans running around on the Moon.
Remember, people like me haven't had the opportunity to see it with their own eyes. Seeing Astronauts on the Moon, at the very least, over the short term will spike interest again of the young.