In polls the American public has shown pride in the country's accomplishments in space exploration, along with concern about the costs involved. A review of public attitudes about the space program, from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research archives.
On one front, decision-makers argue about the destination to which astronauts should be sent to spark a space race-like sense of purpose. Meanwhile, others ask that the space agency direct its efforts to address a narrow scientific question or parochial interest.
The nation that put humans on the moon and inspired generations of excellence in science, technology, engineering, and math is now paying Russia to transport Americans to and from the International Space Station.
The question of when Voyager 1 will leave the solar system is exciting, but generally not important. The fact is that it will soon, or already has -- and therefore it has moved the human race into a new chapter of humanity as interstellar beings.
America cannot afford to squander the opportunity to take full advantage of exploring the next great frontier: space. So it is time for the presidential candidates -- Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney -- to let America know where they really stand on the issue.
Will we look back and ask ourselves whether the decision to abandon space was a wise decision? Or will historians look back and identify this decision as a textbook example of when America sacrificed long-term strategic goals for short-term interests.
The time has come, from both a scientific and exploration standpoint, for NASA to embark on a robotic mission to bring rock and soil samples back from Mars, but the Agency -- and the administration -- appear to be shying away from the challenge.