NASA's human spaceflight ventures may be fading away due to continued underfunding, despite perennial efforts by some members of Congress and the science community, reports Keith Perine.
Government programs rarely die. But they do fade away. Look no further than NASA's human spaceflight venture, a perennially underfunded enterprise noteworthy for being high up on public opinion survey lists of optional government expenditures for years.
Nobody's ready to declare that the U.S. manned spaceflight program is over for good. But it's about to take a break that could last for years. The scheduled April 29 launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is the next-to-last voyage for the aging shuttle fleet. The final flight, of the Atlantis orbiter, is planned for June. While NASA supporters in Congress are pushing hard for a replacement vehicle and have engaged the Obama administration in what promises to be a long argument over NASA, no one knows when a NASA astronaut will leave Earth again on an American spacecraft.