When President Barack Obama killed the space shuttle program, with it went U.S. ability to send humans on missions into the final frontier. For now, Russia is being kind enough to allow American astronauts to ride its rockets. That could change.
But the White House assured Americans the decision was a beginning, not an end. Henceforth, the United States would emphasize space exploration with unmanned craft. If anything, the push toward destinations such as Mars might be enhanced by scrapping the shuttles, we were reassured.
Apparently those were just more in a long line of promises broken by this president. NASA has revealed cuts in Obama's budget will force a mission to Mars to be set back, possibly by years.
Part of Obama's plan is to cancel scheduled robotic missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018, through a joint U.S.-European program. NASA officials say they are attempting to come up with another method of sending an unmanned mission to Mars in 2018.
We don't get it, and we suspect tens of millions of other Americans don't, either. Obama is willing to waste trillions of dollars on programs useful primarily because of their political value to him - but wants to take the United States out of what still is a space race. It just doesn't make sense, for a variety of reasons, some of them very practical.
Congress should step in and, to paraphrase an order spoken by the late astronaut Alan Shepard, re-light this candle.