I have had the pleasure, privilege, and honor to work indirectly for NASA for over ten years now (13 and counting). I work with the best educated, hardest working and dedicated people anywhere on the planet (Huntsville Alabama has the highest concentration of advanced degrees, Masters and Phd, than anywhere else on the planet*). You do us a disservice when you insult NASA or cut a program and end American human space flight- stopping the momentum gained over the last few years. They are roughly 150-160 astronauts in the American astronaut Corp and most of them have never flown. I think their salary is about 80 grand a year. You are talking about amazing Americans and amazing human beings. Their are thousands of American workers dedicated to the American Space Program. They deserve better than ending American human space flight. Stop it and stop it now. Reinstate some kind of American Human Space Flight.
NASA's budget is roughly 17 billion. You lost track of more (much more) when you bailed out the banks. We have lost track of more in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money is there. Restart the American Space Program. I am not the biggest proponent of Constellation, but ending government run human space flight? This is madness- every other country that can, is increasing human space flight and we cannot? We are going to rely on the Russians? Yeah that should work out great. We spend more than the rest of the world combined on our military. the rest of the world combined! This makes no sense. It is a very simple principal of technology develpment. Get the capability- copy what we could do or what another country can do exactly how they do it. The Japanese are masters at it. Why can't we do it. I see all this discussion about the size and details of the vehicles and it just doesn't make sense. Look, work has been done on the Orion, Sounds great, I was not involved. Let's just copy the capability of Soyuz and Apollo (3 man crew to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Let's use our best two vehicles (Delta IV and Atlas V) that have the capability and only allow volunteers on it. Forgot the discussions about how to man-rate un-manned vehicles. Ask the astronauts- they're bright people and know the risks better than anyone. Stop talking and do it. The Space Shuttle is ending this year after a very successful launch record. We need a follow on program and it needs to be lead by NASA.