Less than 10 flights left for the Shuttle. Billions spent on an international space station that we will be walking away from in the near future. Constellation program - Apollo style capsules. Does anyone else think that we're moving backwards?
We never achieved the dream of a fast turnaround reuseable Shuttle and threw away the program for the SSTO spaceplane before we even had a test flight. Billions spent and nothing to show for it. We're now going to be dependent on the Soyuz, a 42 year old launcher, to reach the station.
In the time it takes us to develop the Constellation program, we will have NO manned spaceflight capability. Now in some circles, that isn't such a bad thing. Man-rating a spacecraft adds mass and money to the cost of the program. Robots can do almost all of what we do in space, especially with tele-operation. With the retirement of the Shuttle, we lose little in a functional sense, butwe lose everything in the most important aspect of spaceflight: national prestige. We bow out and leave the game to China and Russia. If someone had told you in the 1960s and 70s that we wouldlose the lead in space exploration to Russia and China, you would have been laughed out of town.
What has happened to us? Have we become a people that has come to terms with being just a member of the pack? What happened to the drive and spirit allowed us to overcome a huge Soviet lead in rocketry and beat the to the Moon?
How long before American rockets say Made in China?