In-Depth: U.S. space exploration has been a contentious topic since NASA elected to discontinue its space shuttle program, forcing American astronauts to hitch rides into orbit on Russian spacecrafts. This was suggested as a way of cutting costs and helping to reduce the budget deficit.
addition to collaborating with Russia on getting American astronauts
into space, NASA has seen private sector competition emerge in the form
of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Orbital Sciences, among others. These companies have started making supply deliveries to the International Space Station, and eventually may deliver astronauts to the facility.
development of these private sector space companies has been
impressive, but there have been setbacks that remind us all of the
dangers of space exploration. A Virgin Galactic test flight accident
led to the death of one person, and the severe injury of another; while
an Orbital Sciences rocket that was going to deliver 5000 pounds of
supplies to the International Space Station exploded on launch.
Still, NASA has its sights set
on eventually putting astronauts on Mars, and in the interim will attempt to capture an asteroid to redirect it to the Moon where it can be studied.
Media:(Photo Credit: Neil Armstrong on the Moon via New Old Stock)