"Commercial services to deliver crew to low-Earth orbit are within reach," the panel wrote. "While this presents some risk, it could provide an earlier capability at lower initial and life cycle costs than government could achieve. A new competition with adequate incentives should be open to all U.S. aerospace companies. This would allow NASA to focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, based on the continued development of the current or modified Orion spacecraft."
What I find most interesting about this all is that in an era
--when we can blithely dump over $74 billion into two failing auto companies with little or no expectation of getting all our money back--
--when we can spend hundreds of billions on stimulus money at the drop of a hat--
--when we can spend tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives in two wars that most people don't really understand--
We can simply turn our back on basic research and manned spaceflight:
The Office of Management and Budget extended cuts initiated in NASA's fiscal 2009 budget, lopping more than $3 billion from NASA's long-range budget projections--money needed for development of the Ares 5 heavy lifter--last spring....
We used to look up.