In January 2nd's "What's New" (*) Bob Park at UMD presented his typically blunt view of what NASA's future should and should not involve:
4. NASA: A HOPELESSLY OLD-FASHIONED VISION OF THE FUTURE.While some might consider this extreme, it does makes sense.
In discussing NASA’s future on Tuesday, the NY Times was mesmerized by the "gap" between the end of the shuttle and the launch of a new bus to transport astronauts. Forget the damn gap. The 21st Century will be focused on planets around other suns, and on the bad news about what’s happening to our own planet. Astronauts can’t go to other stars, but we can build better telescopes and get a better look at them. Astronauts will be no help either in studying our own Sun and our own planet, Earth. We need to finish what we set out to do a decade ago, but were stopped from doing by the Bush administration: launch an updated Deep Space Climate Observatory. There is still time, but we urgently need to get started.
Proponents of manned space flight have got to start making a realistic case for their very expensive passion. Continuing to use empty buzzwords and catch-phrases "exploration" or "only astronauts can go fossil hunting on Mars" is not going to work on Congress and the tax-payer forever.
(*) The 01/02/09 edition was yet available on the What's New website when this post was written.