Step 1: Kill mission to moon planned before 2020.
Step 2: Have no direct ability to send astronauts into space for 5 years.
Step 3: Tell head of NASA that part of his mission is Muslim outreach.
Lost in all of Obama's failures is this one, perhaps his biggest next to the economy. America has been dominant in space since the moon landing. Now, our astronauts will need to hitch rides on Russian craft for a few years (at least). We have few if any well-known public goals with our space program. NASA has fallen out of the public conscience. The President who says we need to make "investments" in green energy, social programs, failed stimulus and more...is unwilling to invest in the program which has probably provided more benefit to the American public in terms of technology than any other.
Now you've done it, President Obama. You've pissed off Neil Armstrong.
Well, some would have said if the moon missions were to go ahead then that would be "Obama wasting all our money. Typical."
In any case, FWIW, I think they should squeeze whatever they possibly can out of the ISS without blowing too much more cash. I don't see any problems with the Russian system to get astronauts up there, the US should take a good 10-15 years to figure out better means.
Keep some probe missions alive, but focus on long term human missions to Mars by 2050.
F**k the moon. Does it have any currently exploitable resources? No. What else are we going to find there that we haven't seen? A crashed ship from Cybertron?
As to the space program benefitting the American public more than any other technology, well, that's probably an endless debate.
But I can tell you, a manned mission to Mars in co-operation with the Europeans, Russians, Japanese and Chinese by 2050 will be immensely galvanising and inspiring for America and the world. That has always been the greatest contribution of the space program... Ironic that it came out of fear of the Soviets but at the end of the day it stimulated the hearts and minds of billions around the world to strive, to seek, to create, to think, to grow, to put aside petty conflicts even for just a short while.
A human on Mars by 2050 will set the tone for the future of mankind beyond our current squabbles over resources and debating on and on about how good or bad the environment is getting. Make it a global co-operative effort and the financial burden is shared. Why does the US have to be the main party that has to spend trillions more this century on space exploration?
And yes, private enterprise and so on, stimulate that. In fact, private investment is the key to human Mars missions. Heck, charge $5 billion per person per trip. Tap into the hearts and minds of the super-rich. They're bored of Guccis, LV bags, supercars, private jets, supermodels and buying sports clubs. Gather them for human Mars missions... To invest, to go, whatever. If nothing else, their egos will drive their funding for Mars. We've seen it with Branson, with the way wealth is distributed these next few decades, there are more than enough billionaires to tap to fund Mars missions and colonisation going past 2050 into 2100.