I'll move my rants to this thread since it's more appropriate. I just totally happened to come across this article while reading about Libya an hour ago, and it highlights what I was talking about while having nothing to do with the space program, mostly. http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/24/6126146-will-our-sputnik-moment-fizzle-out
This nation, the morons in power, have no respect or cares about science. NASA's total dismissal proved that, but it continues in cutting costs to science programs with benefits that people thinking they don't get anything out of space actually do see, on earth. Science is how humanity progresses. In this era, we must focus on science given China's rise and understanding that science is where it's at. Yet we continue to spend trillions on wars. The argument goes this stuff doesn't result in anything for American's, yet giving trillions to Iraq and Afghanistan does? We are going to be in a bad way if this continues... There's always talk about how US kids lag behind in math and science, and yet why would they want to pursue careers there when funding is cut to these programs, and a total deemphasis is being put on them?
It's sad to see humanity starting to stall. It's even sadder that it seems the US is the only country that's capable/interested in doing human spaceflight. Russia hasn't progressed, and China is stalled out, taking ridiculous amounts of time between their human spaceflights. But in unmanned, scientific craft, we are totally getting outdone by the ESA, Europe, JAXA, Japan, even India. China is slowly progressing, and Russia... Well, Russia is now the only game in town for human spaceflight, but given the country's status, they quit scientific unmanned craft pretty much completely. India has really made some leaps in exploring the moon, they've sent a couple probes there that gave unprecedented data. Just today the ESA tested a new craft to explore and map Mercury. Europe has the LHC doing groundbreaking work, and here we find out all particle accelerators may be shut down?
It's sad, because the Mars Rovers proved the average Joe can really get behind and be for unmanned space/science probes. But then again, the greatest mission of the past 25 years in my opinion, Huygens, which was carried with Cassini and descended into Saturn's moon Titan, was nearly ignored. Titan is our best bet at exploring how life may develop, and never mind that, we landed a probe on something so far away, with an atmosphere. And Phoenix, the lander after the rovers, that simply drilled into the ground for ice samples, but was stationary, didn't get much if any attention at all. The next rover, Curiousity, is sort of moth balled and way over budget, and way delayed. At this point, even though it's still scheduled to launch in 2012, with these budget cuts, who knows. Hopefully since they've already spent a couple billion, it's too late for them to try to cut it. If people though Spirit and Opportunity were incredible, Curiousity is going to be them times a hundred. That is one monster powered rover.
New Horizons, which is just freaking awesome, 99% probably have never heard of, as the other thread indicated. Like I said, it was canceled due to funding nearly 15 years ago, and it took a huge fight to get it back and launched. We had a limited window, as Pluto moves further away from the Sun and gets colder, meaning what limited atmosphere it may have goes poof. That was our only shot for 150ish years, and we nearly lost it due to funding. Mind you, these are things that cost only around a billion or so. The data we can get from them is revolutionary, and they cost a pittance in comparison with the US budget.