NASA is a joke
Only after the politicos took over. In the same manner as the UN, since the 'Cold War' ended, both require a new constitution. The biggest joke is the International Space Station.
I'm not against a station in orbit but not low earth orbit (LEO). The original concept from the 50s was a station at or above 1075 miles. There's nothing wrong with the concept of utilizing the L5 point or the moon either.
What I am against is the hype and the lie. The experiments at ISS have been accomplished over and over again in earth bound laboratories. There is more effort spent in station keeping (because of it being LEO) than the science and engineering studies that were its sales pitch. The costs incurred preclude real science elsewhere. When it's complete, what will be the largest issue; whether to dump it in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian ocean. After all, they need to clear a path to the next boondoggle. The moon base will not find anything more plentiful or exotic than what is available in earth surface rocks. So far all missions to determine what really is there have been nixed in favor of those that involve a human presence even though the human presence is more expensive, less productive, and simply does not have the staying power that robotic missions can endure. It is more likely that the Chinese will gain a better hold on the moon than NASA planning. It will take longer. It will be safer. And, the results will benefit a long term view rather than a 90 day big bang with political ramifications.
All science that involves manned spaceflight has been limited because it must be made simple for an astronaut to handle and at extreme cost because we would like to get the astronaut back; alive. When you consider the cost benefit of using astronauts and the cost benefit of the Spirit, Opportunity, and Phoenix missions, I'll opt for the tin can for a long time yet.
BTW: If it should come to pass that something of value is found on the moon, then and only then will a long term colony be established. That alone will require great investment and as history repeats itself, so often, we will have a war with the moon within 200 years of colonization.
all the robot missions that failed on the way or after arrival.
I count 3 failed robotic missions lately; four counting Beagle. There are five robotic missions on-going. That's better than 50%. You want to throw in the solar monitoring missions that are on-going for the last ten years? How about the weather sats? Let's through in the communications sats. What's your tolerance for failed manned spaceflight missions? What do you do to reach zero tolerance? The answer is to sacrifice science and learning how to do it right!
No maddog, the cost benefit is on the side of robotic missions and the new science data is on the side of robotic missions. Manned spaceflight has a long way to go to be that cost effective. Manned spaceflight has a long way to go to be for the advantage of a human presence required to learn real-time. Right now manned spaceflight is still putting a man in a can with limited things to do and ways to collect the data needed. In most cases, the science is pretty much automated data collection. The manufacturing on ISS has never been successful. The crystal growth on ISS is barely up to what can be done in an earth laboratory. The sum total of ISS is a costly political mess: unproductive experimentation; uninteresting social engineering; politically flat international relations affects.
Indeed, having a manned spacefliht program is neat but at what cost for what gain?
I don't know if this is real or media BS but here is an article on NASA that points to my opinion in places and yours in others.
a way to package instant ramen for the ISS.
you left out Tang....lol
where would you have manned flight start
It's already started but it should never be placed above the science. There is simply too many unknowns and the cost of just keeping the astronaut alive is slowing down the science because of the perceived political advantage. As an example, politicians have sold a manned Mars mission because of all the water there that can be turned into fuel.
How do we turn it into fuel there when we can't do it here?
Even if you could take advantage of Daniel Nocera's electrolysis H2 O2 generator the solar constant at Mars would be a quarter of earth's; at the Martian equator while the water is at the poles.
How do we get the water there when Pioneer hasn't found any yet?
Water in abundance is still out of reach. It's very frustrating that we can detect water but haven't been able to measure what is in it yet.
How do we get the astronaut there and keep the astronaut alive for the two year trip?
The launch weight of a space worthy life support system would require the space construction of the manned flight to Mars. Consider that expense. There would still be the effort of enough energy to get that flight moving toward Mars then there is the stopping; which is just as important. Perhaps stopping is even more expensive because the trip out will require a few swingbys to increase the speed of the craft beyond what rocket engines could provide. That spaceship would require some maneuvering to get it into orbit. More expense and energy for those two events. Then the astronauts would need to get down to the surface and back up. Two more sources of energy and expense. Then there is just staying alive on the surface and having enough food and water to do work. I don't think you would pay for a two year trip out just to take a few pictures, pickup a few rock, take another picture of a foot print, and plant a flag. At this point we haven't even considered the return trip and its unique problems.
These are only some of the problems and considerations that require knowledge and viable solutions. All of these take money to prepare for the unknowns of the enterprise. To be sure there are lots of people who would volunteer but volunteers hardly ever come back alive. In the case of a Mars trip they might not get beyond the moon.
Mad Dog, the expense and guarantees of crew safety could be reduced if the numbers of the unknowns could be reduced. That can't happen if all the finances are diverted from science missions, as is happening now, to a manned space program that addresses problems as they are encountered but not known. You know the expression; look before you leap.
During the first world war air combat was at a stage of knights errant in single combat. 20 years later the more sophisticated planes were still manned by knights errant. All of that was learning the hard way out of necessity. Would they have been better off with an F-22? We have the time, why not plan and learn. Manned spaceflight is not dead in my book and there are plenty of opportunities for manned spaceflight experimentation. But, I don't think that you want all your eggs in that basket. NASA, because of political pressures and appointments at the top, is doing just that; putting all the eggs in one basket. We also know what happens when the perceived political goals are met; cut funding and recriminations about how teachers have failed us and why we can't compete in the world market place. Please, what we learned in the first few years about space was far more valuable than all the integrated circuits, tang, and adult sized diapers.
Anecdote: they used to eject that stuff overboard until they finally learned why the system broke down after two days in orbit; it froze solid at the exit port; it's really cold in space.
in different proportions
Not just astronomers. There are a large number of physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers that are on the band wagon with experiments that pave the way to the future that you would like. Check out the names and research at NASA/Ames. There are too many politicians in the loop that demand that the term future be synonymous with 90 days and be accomplished in their districts or it won't be funded.
Your real name wouldn't be Burt Rutan would it? In any case, here's a video clip from TED that is right down your alley and little down mine.
And, turn the volume down at the beginning. Their intro can do some damage; I think.