I'm always amazed at what it is that we mere humans can learn. Math, Science, Art - we have risen so very far above our roots that it makes me wonder what other creatures can aspire to achieve.
Will the ancestors of other contemporary apes develop math? Do dolphins understand philosophy? Will there ever be an elephant Einstein?
Through serendipity the versitle human brain is demonstrably good at things that don't seem to be directly related to our survival. Telescope-gazing doesn't add food to the table, doesn't clothe or house your kids.
But staring through a telescope, launching multi-million dollar space exploration probes, doing esoteric physics - these are long-range survival traits that allow us to identify opportunities for humankind, while identifing possible dangers that we need to be aware of.
Mather and Smoot are not just explorers - the findings from them and their team teaches us more about how the universe really works, which may someday be added to other knowledge to make human lives more productive and safer in a dangerous place.
The mere fact that learning new things happens to be fun for us all is just icing on the cake.