By John Dodge
Posting in Government
The challenge now is how to get the nation inspired about the space program. And if that is not possible, maybe we shouldn't do it or at least take a break from it. John Dodge
The Wall Street Journal editor who wrote the headline "Panel Urges NASA to Reset Priorities" in the Wall Street Journal might have dropped the re off reset. NASA, it would seem, doesn't have priorities or ones that are remotely realistic.
That's the conclusion of a panel chosen by President Obama to figure out what the underfunded and overly challenge agency should do. Now, I don't agree with my fellow blogger Dana Blankenhorn that NASA should be scrapped and space exploration handed over to private enterprise. Every earthling alive today or yet-to-be born has an interest in space exploration and leaving most or all of it to private companies raises many concerns.
The report offers nothing radically new and says we have to make hard choices within the current mission framework AND even then, give NASA $3 billion more each above the $18.68 billion request for FY2010. The report seems half-hearted and rather than offering a vision and clear path forward, it details rehashed options that won't give anyone goosebumps.
Looking back, NASA was created in the late fifties specifically to go to the moon. It's singular focus was to land astronauts on the moon and get them back to earth safely. NASA had the full backing of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson as well as the nation. Americans were juiced about going to moon and It took their minds off the Vietnam War.
Ever since, the Apollo program, NASA has drifted and been a side show to other federal priorities. This report won't change that. The challenge now is how to get the nation inspired about the space program. And if that is not possible, maybe we shouldn't do it or at least take a break from it.
Here are some of ther reports conclusions:
Private enterprise within a national space program should be encouraged and toward that end, the report recommends that a commercial launch vehicle fire crews into low earth orbit (LEO). That makes sense, but safety would be an enormous issue.
"Commercial services to deliver crew to low-Earth orbit are within reach. While this presents some risk, it could provide an earlier capability at lower initial and life cycle costs than government could achieve," the report says. What's more, international partnerships should be sought out to defray costs and create good will. Did NASA administrators have to be told this?
This would free up NASA to focus on more challenging exploits such as developing two versions of the Ares heavy lift vehicle for exploration beyond LEO. Along with that would be a new Orion space capsule for lunar landings, circling and free space exploration where we can, in essence, practice and prepare to eventually go to Mars.
The report also urges extending the life of the Space Station (it took 25 years to put it together for a measly five years of operational life, the report notes) and retiring the Space Shuttle in 2011 instead of 2010. Once the Space Shuttle is retired, NASA won't have anything to launch to astronauts into space for six and more likely seven years. How did that happen?
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Sep 9, 2009
I like what "worldnick" had to say, he is very correct. Where do they get the idea that the public is not interested in space exploration? Just like any survey, depending on who you ask determines the outcome of the survey. When was the last time you saw a good boat race on Nationwide TV? No difference here, the media's lack of full coverage has removed space exploration from the public eye. Because it is no longer a "unique" event they don't see it as "valid entertainment" for their viewers and advertisers will not spend their money where it is not going to get them the bang for the buck. The original Star Trek show was one of those things that also kept space exploration in the public eye, now its a late evening show on one of the cable channels or SyFy channel. If you are not into it, your not going to go looking for it on the cable guide. Want to stop wars between nations... give them their own planet, North Korea can be the Klingons. Put full coverage back on the "Networks" and then take your survey. Personally, if they are right and we are the only beings in the universe then we have failed miserably in reaching out and populating "all those planets that can support life". With that I give the Human Race an "F" for failing to meet their real calling.
Put a telescope array in orbit that is powerful enough to image exoplanets. It would probably have to be a joint project of many of the world?s space agencies but it is doable now.
I don't think the problem is lack of excitement, its lack of agreement on what NASA should stand for. Many people want to see a return on their investment (find a planet, find intelligent beings, etc). Thats like telling Apple go build and iPhone that can't be destroyed by a nuclear weapon. NASA is not a business in that sense. Its not like a medical company that you give $10 billion to and then in 5yrs you have some new drug you can sell to recoup your investment and make a profit. Space research and exploration takes many years and even then they aren't going to solve world hunger. Thats not their job anyway. An investment in NASA is in a sense, an investment in what it means to be human. This investment represents our very core, our desire to explore, to push the boundaries of technology and engineering, and to preserve the human species. This is a 2yr old article (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/898/1) but the idea still stands from a financial sense: " In the 2007 budget, the funding for social programs adds up to a whopping $1.581 trillion. For every $1 the federal government spends on NASA, it spends $98 on social programs...The naysayers often speak as if the country?s social problems would be solved if only we took the money given to NASA and devoted it to social programs. Does anyone seriously believe that increasing spending on social programs from $1.581 trillion to $1.597 trillion would make any appreciable difference?" I'm all for cutting wasteful spending, I just think we waste way more money elsewhere. Don't be "penny wise and pound foolish". FYI: How NASA Technologies Enhance Our Lives http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2008/pdf/Brochure_0 8_web.pdf
NASA has got to start telling the truth about what they find out there. Til that happens, they're going to be the butt of a lot of jokes, namely, "Never A Straight Answer," and "The lie changes at every level." I study the photos in NASA's photo databases; and their photo details never match their public pronouncements. So, I'll just keep laughing at them.
In my view NASA should consider helping improve the aircraft industry. NASA has the technology to do so. They should help design safer aircrafts that survive crashes.
NASA scientific spinoffs are not te source of all technological progress in the U.S. for the last 50 years. This is a nice urban myth. NASA has utilized and benefitted from many technological and scientific advances, just like we all have. For example, the Apple, arguably the first successful desktop computer was invented by one individual, Steve Wozniak, in his spare time using electronic parts from Hewlitt Packard where he worked. Even if a lot of spinoffs came from the billions and billions NASA has spent over the years, think of haw many more benefits there would have been if the money had been spent directly on such things as medical research, alternative non-polluting fuels, and educational programs instead of the money being shot into space. And NASA's priorities have certainly been screwed up over the past few years. Look at all the money spent on the "International" space station at the same time NASA is sunsetting the Hubble Telescope. Think how astronomy and even physics would have been advanced is all the money wasted on the space station had been spent on the next generation of space telescopes.
NASA helping the private sector to get started by providing professional advice(which they probably already do, from what I've read in Aviation Week and Space Technology) and doing a combination of programs. The cool thing about the private sector is that they are willing to sacrifice lives! Come on man! You have to be willing to die for science; we do it everyday on earth, already! We can't reach for the planets let alone the stars untill we master low Earth orbit and the moon, There many economical reason to do this, and very practical. I've been studying this closely since 1990; earlier for military reasons(that are all but obsolete), but all you have to do is read the "Sally Ride Report" to wake up and smell the coffee!!!
hmm...maybe, not only a nation, but the whole world would be much excited if the NASA discovers a new living planet aside from the earth..isn't that great??LOL
hmm...may not only a nation, but the whole world would be much excited if the NASA discovers a new living planet aside from the earth..isn't that great??LOL
Hello, I live a few miles from NASA.I am proud to have seen all the many wonderful programs NASA has created,I sold cars for 50+years and met many of the fine people that work at NASA. Please do not forget NASA, On to Mars
dmac02 has it right. What will get America behind NASA again is a clear, practical mission that involves the educational, scientific, and industrial communities to achieve a reachable goal. A manned mission to Mars is possible, but in my opinion impractical. Having a permanent space station and lunar colony on the other hand I think would be a good catalyst to boost innovative technological advances. Most people are unaware of the contributions spun off from the space program's many technologies - that's the problem. Japan is already planning an orbiting solar collection station for beaming energy down to our planet. China and several other countries are already space-capable, too. Open LEO to private industry and focus NASA on farther-reaching missions. NASA has kind of degraded into a maintenance mode, and that's not sexy. Give them a big, flashy new goal to achieve. The more we see of and pay attention to something, the more worthy we think it is to fund. Make it interesting and make it frequently newsworthy. In a word: Marketing!
NASA has always been a military agency and keeps useless government employees feeding at the taxpayer provided trough. NASA should be scraped and the private sector should take over space exploration.
No Govt. OWNS space, except for that volume above the political geographic entity. So, let private enterprise find a way to make money there. The Govt. can and will exploit space for its/our perceived need (defense) and other areas which it may or maynot tell us. What gets the American public excited is competition. The "Race to the Moon" was a one horse race hyped by the Govt. and Media. We bought in. Well folks lets do it again! Race to Mars! Or colonize the Moon where we Know that there things to be processed for a profit. None of this is likely to happen until the price of putting a pound of "stuff" in LEO is drastically reduced. Not by half, but thats good, but by ten or more, which would be great! By The Way, I think the NASA programs have returned to the economy in technology far more that its total budget has cost. What it suffers from is a terminal case of dullness looked over by equally dull people. THAT has to change for us as a species to grow. Space exploration allows us to look out beyond ourselves rather than inwards, and that would be a good thing!
Alot of smart people, making alot of dumb comments. What about,"TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE,"ON A FIVE YEAR MISSION.?? Seems like I got excited about that. Most everything on that show has become reallity, why not the actual trip.
Where exactly did the idea that government run enterprise is *ever* sustainable? A bunch of geeks got together almost 50 years ago and achieved something incredible, financed by government largess. Great. Now NASA is worshiped as about the ACME of evidence that government can be the answer to any societal problem. Oh, and evidence is manufactured and propagated to support that notion: http://american-space-news.top-seo-solutions.com/a-list-of-nasa-urban-legends-inventions/ If the money and resources siphoned away from private enterprise in the pursuit of government power and prestige had been utilized for entrepreneurial pursuits, who knows what industries would exist today?
Look folks, I am prepairing to be involved in a layoff for the 3rd time in less than a year. This will probably be the last time. Among my observations is, for what is suppose to be the "end all" for technology you have a bunch of folks running NASA that do not have a bit of common sense what-so-ever. Instead of turming our nose up at the shuttle program with its "aging fleet", why didnt we build a new improved shuttle. Look what ford did with the Mustang! Some engineers still want to us the booster technology we already have on the shuttle, since it is so dependable. Now we want to spend millions for our astronauts to hitch a ride on the Soyuz. Sorry, I don't trust the Russians. Also, we are launching the next to last Delta II which has been the workhorse for putting sattelites in space, including GPS, for decades now, and has an impecable safety record. The program will come to an end in 2011 with no launches in between. Meanwhile OUR GPS sattelites we start dropping out of orbit and burning up next year. Then again who will we rely on for our GPS needs......Russia, China, France??? Hind sight is not just 20/20, in this case it is costing our nation it's spot among the elite nations. We are rapidly becoming another 3rd world country. PAD RAT V
Money. With money, NASA can do exciting things Remember the 'Brain Drain'? We brought people from all over the world to build Apollo. We had almost all commercial airline production. We created materials and processes in which we still capitalize. Even medical techniques were created that has kept us all healthier and longer lived. Then those people were cut loose by the gutting of NASA. Airbus is just the tip of the talent iceberg broken off from NASA. So, not only excitement but also economic muscle comes from a strong NASA and (in general) academic scientific support. Remember, no Bucks, no Buck Rogers! P.S. Congress has cost the lives of 14 great people due to the years of underfunding (Challenger and Columbia).
The space station is just a money pit that results in nothing for everyone. The problem with NASA is they become a bunch of socialists and feminists pushing their brand of ideology. They become way too political. Just look at the garbage Hansen is pushing forth on global warming (he has to go and step down, he become are too impartial). We need to cut their funding, or simply stop all funding, and then re-build NASA from scratch. The space station does NOTHING for us technology wise, and is a waste of money that could people. NASA should be doing things like research on improving our nuclear power industry and they have to quit pushing all their socialist crap and stop being a left political organization.
One thing NASA has done well lately is embrace the internet and social media to promote its programs. Terrific coverage of Moon and Mars unmanned missions, Shuttle and ISS. This has rekindled my personal interest, and I have read several things lately about the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo program. NASA is how it is by some historical decisions and accidents alike. We definitely need to stay in space, manned and unmanned. Commercial should play a greater role (no need for government monopoly anymore) and we should cooperate with other countries as we are doing, or to an even greater extent. If the Soyuz is the most efficient way to get to LEO, then so be it. I am unsure about Constellation with its capsule configuration and solid booster. Apollo was configured as it was because of some economic and technological compromises. Perhaps we can do better.
Discovering oil on the moon. Keep reminding people that Earth's resources will eventually be depleted. Than what?
People: This is one of the biggest expenses a people can take on - other than bailing out Rich people and the entire world Baking industry. People Need-Want-Require Job security, that ability to know they have a way to make money and pay their mortgage next month They need to know they can pay medical expenses - put their children to college. This Space thing will come in time, quit expecting normal feelings when life is so so so far from normal at this time. Just be real about this- the Gov can always print more money for it perhaps??? With Kind Regards Dick Woods
We may as well discontinue the organization known as NASA as the USA is already down the failing path of a religion based political system. Why spend even a penny more when the majority of Americans want to focus on today and not tomorrow. Let that growing and change focused nation China take over the focus on technological and knowledge improvements as their taxpayers want to move into tomorrow's world as quickly as possible while most Americans want to go back to the good old days and as far back as they can get. For some reason most Americans think that their Founding Fathers were the geniuses who could forecast the eternal needs of Americans and they not thinking that we would ever want to mine the moon havefrom their graves convinced most of us to beleive that we might be better off not even trying!
It will take a significant PR and education campaign for the nation to get excited about NASA again. With millions unemployed - I'm betting the possibility of water on Mars is of little consequence to America. BUT - having said that, I'm a huge NASA proponent. NASA needs to education America about the numerous spin off companies and every day products and medical advancements we all benefit from because of the space program. Get NASA to show the number of jobs actually created that are related will also help. Oddly - NASA needs to promote the non-space part of their program.
EndGame, I wish I could say you're wrong, but I don't think you are wrong. We only have to look at what is happening here in the U.S. to see that starting. It has been going on in Europe and England for over 20 years and, as we can see now, they are rotting from within due to the burden placed on their "social services". Part of the problem is that the more responsible people who care for the world and are doing their part to lessen Man's impact are being "out-bred" by those that take NO responsibility for the damage they do.
While we're all dreaming pie in the sky by and by, the Muslims are rapidly taking over the planet, and 1/3rd of the globe is ruled by warlords and assorted despots (or half the planet if you count China - which I do...). I love the thought of space exploration - FTL drives, hyperspace, folding space, singularities, parallel universes, transdimensionality - bring it on! But the truth of it is, looking to the stars while our world is tossed into Satan's Ghetto hardly seems either realistic or a prudent use of our time, effort and money in the short to medium term. No point have great "technological advances" if you struggle to put food on your table and have to barricade your door from hoodlums that would rape, steal and pillage... And don't think it won't happen to us in the "west": ten years max, and we'll all be living under big Islamic brother's thumb. Break out the burqas... :(
Will be choose to be inward focussed worried/paranoid people fretting about where the next meal will come from or will we turn outward and choose high objective, MAKING THE PERSONAL COMMITTMENTS that it takes to achieve those high objectives AND solve the at home problems of hunger and care. In the past, it's taken wars, homesoil attacks to galvanize our nation into a focussed country determined to maintain what we believe are parts of being a CIVILization. Can we choose to be focussed on high goals and PERSONALLY COMMIT to achieving the at home needs as well? Like was mentioned above, we've got our "we've arrived attitude" and our ME FIRST focus on life going great guns for the last 10-20 years. Until we realize that there really is no "arriving" until we've taken our last breath KNOWING that we as individuals HAVE DONE OUR BEST to advance our CIVILization, we will not get excited about anything major including NASA / space exploration / understanding what our individual purpose in this life is / why we get up in the morning. After all it's easier to focus on our toys, complaints, next dinner menu etc. So what will it be? High focus or VR for life?? That's the first choice to be made I guess.
There is not a bigger fan of the space pgm than I have been. Look at the inventions, innovations and the prestige that we have gained since JFK said, "we are going to the moon". But, what now, hordes of money being spent to find out if there is water on mars. How is that going to change my life or yours? Hubble has been great, let us go to the next generation telescope. I'm not sure I understand the goals of the space station. Where are the gains, what is expected of it? NASA is just another boondoggle.
If we have a nation that isn't excited about NASA, then NASA should jetison the nation and go on. Heck we spend moremoney on ACORN.
Correction on the history of NASA: NASA was created in 1958 during President Eisenhower's administration after a series of embarrassing rockets exploding on the pad. It was created primarily to keep the exploration of space peaceful and to keep it away from the "military industrial complex". It was four years or so later that President Kennedy challenged NASA and indeed the United States to "put a man on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade". It would be a shame to forget that. The Hubble telescope pictures have created some of the same excitement, and the Mars probes have been technically amazing. But .Almost 50 years later it is left to President Obama to again challenge the American people and challenge them to new heights.Manned space exploration is extremely expensive. It won't happen without fundamental repairs to the economy and to our staggering addiction to imported oil. But that is a topic for a different thread.
There will probably always be some sort of governmental control on the issue of space. Besides the obvious military uses, there would have to be some sort of control over the importing of alien substances without proper decontamination (?) procedures. NASA should set some sort of a plan; all companies have a goal to achieve. Develop the technology for a 'mid-Mars' manned lab/observatory with robotic sampling units that can return to the lab. Set a goal not to burden our government, but strive to consider all private and commercial interests thoughout the world as a common goal. And maybe, just maybe (?) we may end up not needing a military. Technology has already connected the world - let's step up the process where we can unite the people of the world for a common goal - to better the human race!
People want something they can see, watch people explore and explore with them, thats what made the original manned missions to the moon so exciting. As scientifically viable as all the experiments being done in space are, unless your in that specific field, many of them are kinda boring (or even if you ARE in that field) NASA needs to focus on exploring PHYSICAL space. You know I was SOOO excited about the huydgens-titan mission... and the pictures that were brought back were kinda... blah. I know it would have added extra costs to the mission, but every mission should have an element of gardening EXCITEMENT. People need to SEE what they're getting excited about! We still need the regular trips to the space station, but we could greatly subsidize those with private project funding. But we don't need the ridiculously expensive research projects that don't yield functional ANYTHING. The technology will get there, people will get it there. We need the money and the agency to start MOVING US INTO SPACE! Thats what will get people excited. Start moving us to Mars! If we're going to go back to the moon before Mars, NASA could do it in less than a year and still be very safe. The problem is money and vision. We need a visionary in charge of NASA, not a scientist.
I do not trust private enterprises as far as I could throw them, and at my age I might be able to get them out my door. Many of them would sell their own mothers if they thought they could get away with it. Let private enterprise make the things we need to do more and greater exploration of our solar system and beyond, They do a pretty good job at that kind of thing even then one would have to keep and eagle eye on them. But to put them in charge of actual missions is asking for trouble It seems we have learned nothing about private enterprise from the current fiasco. When their bottom line goes belly up (Redundancy/safety go out the window.
As others have stated, most of our high tech industries have come about as spin-offs from solving problems getting into and back home from space. It's not a money pit, it's investment into future technological leadership.
Put Nasa under military control so costs are consolidated, bureaucracy is less (yes really) politicized, and less subject to (tempermental) public approval. Democracies are terrible at sticking to long term objectives. Divide the programs into three divisions: scientific research and exploration programs, military programs, and human habitation extension programs. Charter Human Habitation Extension division with 100,000 person colonies self supporting and sustainable. These organizations burn an incredible amount of money managing external blame avoidance. The military does not have to do this, and can cloak everything in secrecy, avoiding the liability of democratic fashionability. This will return the best value per dollar, and focus each dollar on the desired objective, and allow universities to use private space exploration and their rather over-invested-dowry's to conduct basic research, and keep the government program focused, not on fending off competing political interests and academic nonsnese, in favor of executing the only reason for us to make national investments: extension of human habitation.
If we (the human race, not only the Americans) would discover life elsewhere in our solar system (on Titan, Enceladus, Europe or any other satellite of the solar planets) that would be a great incentive to go on with the space exploration.
Most of our greatest inventions (of the past decades) have been a direct result of NASA research. Scrap NASA and we scrap Americas future! Space exploration is needed if the human race is to survive in the long term, but even in the short term, space exploration pays big dividends! Mark Heinemann
As noted in one of the comments the military purposes of space exploration mean the government always has to be involved. That said, a lot of NASA's mission should be handed off to private industry. And when it comes to getting the nation excited the U.S. needs a villian and someone to knock us out of complacency. The moon landing was largely undertaken to beat the USSR there. Meanwhile, it's a different time for the US and NASA. Seems like we just thought bigger back then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQOu0IAdgaA
It would take a nation of adults instead of children playing video games and spending all their time and effort on trivial pursuits. If NASA wants to recruit me I'll join. They would first have to pay for me to go to school because our college system has completely failed. College didn't start out as a capitalist venture. Believe it or not there was a time when people did things because they believed in the goodness of humanity. We live in those times still. Millions and billions of people fool themselves into thinking they are going to live forever and they live in some sort of age of enlightenment. The reality is that we still are short lived tiny beings floating around on a rock only now we wear VR headsets and pretend like we're not going to die. I went to work for a large corporation and I cannot believe how immature people who are 35 and 40 years old act. These are the same people who control the flow of money into academic institutions and around the world. Researchers end up working on more sophisticated toys and skin care products instead of rocket ships and curing cancer. Is it going to take a planet wide catastrophe to knock us into our senses? John F. Kennedy once said, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself." I think maybe we had better start fearing a little bit more. Maybe this is just a trend. Science and technology like a drug. We talk about the latest bug in Internet Explorer and OSX like it will save us. Religion made it easier for people to face death. Now we just ignore it. NASA is like the engine room for Space Ship Earth. We can let it be neglected and live in a fantasy world where reality catches us off guard and one day you realize you have 3 months left to live or we can hold hands and face reality. We need NASA and to make it work we need race relations and better schools. Maybe we do have larger immediate problems because for some reason people have a hard time recognizing other human beings and respecting them and living in harmony. Maybe it is NASA that needs to open it's doors more. Maybe it is the fault of the government for stifling innovation with the patent system. Maybe it is the lack of trust in our nations population. Why don't we have more astronaut farmers? We need openness. Maybe the reason so many people retreat into fantasy is because we don't let them play. That is a social problem and if you want to fix that then you have to "take a look at yourself and make a change." :P
Computers and robotic probes can only do so much. The human brain is the only computer that can reprogram itself (so far). Humans must go back to the Moon and on to Mars.
One-way mission to Mars! You would have no shortage of qualified volunteers. Why isn't this being discussed?
Both KidLeo (#5) and mwagner (#6) make excellent points and are quite correct about the future of NASA. But with commercial enterprises being used for low Earth orbit work, I would be concerned for safety. A "for profit" corporation is not only always watching the "bottom line", they would also have to answer to their shareholders. This could make their efforts a moot point if the shareholders get scared and develop "cold feet" for taking chances. I hope and pray they never do. Without taking chances, America would never have reached the West Coast, much less the Moon. Without taking chances, humans would not have even reached the shores of the New World. We MUST dream beyond our reach and then strive to bring the dream within our grasp!! Otherwise, as a civilization, as a people, as a sentient life form, we will die. I, for one, choose LIFE.
... always been funded by kings and governments. For no other reason than too give kings and governments an economic or military advantage over their neighbors/adversaries. The "race to the moon" was no different. That said, the populations of those countries who took part in those efforts ultimately benefited greatly from the effort. NASA continues to do great things in the unmanned exploration of space but it is short-sighted to ignore the human factor. Humans are, by nature curious about the world/universe around them and we all benefit from what is learned - both in terms of pure science and in terms of the engineering feats required to attain these lofty goals. For instance, the naivgational systems developed for apollo guide every modern ariliner today. The need for computer minaturization in order to travel to the moon led to moderm microprocessors which run our PCs, our TV's, and our cell phones. In fact, nearly every modern electornic device was derived from the needs of Apollo all those years ago. Does NASA need an overhaul? Probably. But this is because our national leaders need to inspire us to once again "reach for the stars". In the 1960's the United States and the Soviet Union were competing to dominate space. Today, we remain spacefaring nations but we are no longer alone. Japan, India, and China are rapidly movign toward being spacefaring nations in their own right. Collectively, the EU is doing the same thing. It is a lot better for us to be competing as explorers than for us to be competing for military might. In the end, if we do not learn how to live and work in space on a grand scale, we may not be able to stop that next big meteor which is destined to strike earth and once again wipe out 90 percent of the species on earth. It has happened at least twice before and will happen again if we do not have the will and the resources and engineering skills to prevent it.
All it will take is the discovery of an asteroid or comet bearing down on our planet and the entire world will realize that the future of the planet depends on our ability to work effectively in space. It's not if, but when, a devastating collision will occur. We just don't know if it will be next year or in a million years. But a couple of extra billion dollars a year will sound cheap when we are staring into the abyss. However, I do believe that a lack of money is not the problem, it is a lack of focus. If they had the proper focus they would then need more money. Just like every government agency, and big companies for that matter, they just spread out into a glob of perhaps talented but underutilized people without a common goal. After a fairly short time people are more excited about how many weeks of vacation they get instead of the fact that they get to go to work and play with Buck Rogers' stuff.
If they could come up with a way to collect energy in space and transmit it down to here for less money per watt than a new fossil fuel or nuclear plant, people would get VERY excited. The nice thing about this kind of energy supply is that it would be non-polluting, have an inexhaustable energy source, require little maintenance, and satisfy the 'not-in-my-backyard' shortsighted syndrome so many people suffer from.
Maybe it'll take assurance that we can find and process gold, diamonds, or some other desireable item to get our nation fired up about NASA. But, how would we get any assurance? -- not likely going to happen.