Today NASA announced plans to establish a permanent base at the Moon's South Pole. Here's the news story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16042651/
According to the article, this is supposed to occur by 2024.
OK, great, but I'm 46 now and I'll be 64 then. When I was freaking 9 years old we had guys tramping around the moon and were promised that by 1980 we'd have guys at Mars....and moving sidewalks by 1985.
From 1973 through today we have done doo-diddly-squat as far as manned exploration. I got an A on a paper I wrote in college on the death of manned space exploration...in 1983!
Instead, we've focused on a Space Ford Excursion (the Shuttle) since the 1970's. Sure, can haul a lot but gets lousy gas mileage. To top this off we decided that the Space Excursion needed a garage in orbit and hence came the low orbit, underused, overbudget ISS.
The ISS and Shuttle consume mass quantities of NASA budget for a dubious return in science. What does the ISS prove that Mir didn't? Nothing. What science to we get from the Shuttle? Occasional Earth studies and repair trips to Hubble. Bah!
Meanwhile, the rest of NASA has to contend with relatively low budget robotic missions to the other planets where the real action is.
And, God bless 'em, they do great! The Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still tooling around Mars far after the expected design specs. Cassini is doing great as did the little Huygens probe (thanks, ESA!) carried. The Pluto Express is on it's way.
In 2001, these audacious bastards even tried to land an asteroid orbiter on an asteroid when it was low on fuel...and succeeded!
So why don't we do away with the low-orbit shenanigans and marry the astronauts and budget with the visionaries and top engineers carrying out planetary missions? Fuck the moon, I want to see Dave Bowman orbiting Jupiter before I die.
Just tell him to ignore HAL's complaints about the AE-35.