The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the U.S. civilian space agency and the primary U.S. government body engaged in space exploration.
NASA is credited with historic achievements such as Apollo lunar landings and Mariner missions. In recent decades however the agency has lost momentum, public support and fought to hold on to a dimionsihign share of Federal spending.
The United States lost the ability to conduct lunar landings when Pres. Richard Nixon decided to adopt the Space Shuttle as a transportion technology that would support the commericalization of space. Critics jibe that the ISS was built to give the Space Shuttle someplace to go once it was in space.
A Sop to the Space Exploration Enthusiasts
Under Pres. George W. Bush's the January 14, 2004 "Vision for Space Exploration," the United States plans to complete the ISS by 2010 and end involvement with the project by 2016, retire the Space Shuttle by 2010 and introduce the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) for Earth orbital missions while relying on the Russians for Earth to ISS missions, return astronauts to the Moon between 2015 and 2020 using the CEV, and at some "unspecified" future point in time send astronauts to Mars. The second Bush White House has no intention to spending sufficient real or political capital to actually achieve that goal. Instead it simply wants to garner support from space enthusiasts, whose conservative political instincts make them vulnerable to such promises.
In late January, James Hansen, the NASA official leading the Goddard Institute for Space Studies revealed that the second Bush administration was monitoring his lectures and papers and had ordered that his public statements be "reviewed." As an honest scientist working on climate change Hansen has drawn the ire of the adminsitration. In an effort to protect Big Energy from energy and environmental policies that would reduce carbon emissions, the administration has attempted to silence and/or buyoff scientists working on climate change. See Republican War on Science.
- Marcia S. Smith. "Space Exploration: Issues Concerning the "Vision for Space Exploration"". Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress. November 18, 2005, Order Code RS21720.