If our success on Mars and plans for going to the moon aren't exciting to you then I don't know what is. There is something so cool about exploration of the unknown. I mean, just seeing those high resolution pictures of the Martian surface goves me chills. The fact that we are capable of doing something like that makes proud to be an American. Seriously, who else can do that right now? For that matter, who else has the ability to to colonize the moon, RIGHT NOW...that's right us. The Apollo program, the space progam in general, has advanced science and technology like no other area in the world.
It's about time we clearly define a purpose and goal for our space program. Let's face it, the space program has been virtually dead for 30 years. Yeah the shuttle was a success, at least at first., but we were just going up there for the sake of going up there. Since satellites can be launched via stand alone rockets, shuttle missions were basically expensive trips to conduct lame high school experiments. We need to pump some life into the space program, set common goals, and unite this country behind the excitement of a space program like we once did.
What we need to do:
1) Complete the space station and install a full complement of crew.
2) Immediately begin plans for a shuttle replacement.
3) Continue to research and develop the Ion drive system, which appears to be our best chance at space propulsion.
4) Immediately begin designing plans for a permanent moon base. Once in position and established, ways to mine prescious elements such as helium-3 should be created. The moon base is pivotal. Any trip to Mars will require a moon base for success. It will be expensive but there is money to make on the moon sports fans.
5) stay on course for Mars. Expect setbacks and don't let them derail the plans.
6) Look to other countries for assistance. Let's face it, a trip to Mars is a trip for all mankind. We need to team up with the other technological giants and make this happen together. Let's face it, we have some of the smartest scientists in the world, but let's not limit ourselves to just that, let's hear from the best of the best around the world.