Space Shuttle Discovery is seen streaking into space (to the left) as a plume of smoke floats through the air after it blasted off from launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on April 5, 2010, in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

There may be hope yet for a far-reaching, inspirational space program. Or at least something that takes us out of low-Earth orbit. Yesterday at the Kennedy Center, President Obama outlined a new heavy-lift rocket R&D program that would theoretically take us to Mars and beyond. Working in concert with private industry, the plan is particularly long-term (and incremental, not that that’s a bad thing): an asteroid by 2025, Mars by 2030. Highlights:

The bottom line is, nobody is more committed to manned spaceflight, to human exploration of space than I am … [But] we’ve got to do it in a smart way, and we can’t just keep on doing the same old things we’ve been doing and thinking that’s going to get us where we want to go.


Step by step, we will push the boundaries not only of where we can go but what we can do. In short, 50 years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time.

Are we finally reaching for the stars again? Or is this a Florida-as-2012-swing-state political posture? The begrudging acceptance of keeping the Orion platform as an ISS lifeboat certainly seems a bit pandering. I guess we won’t know for a while. But I’ve still got hope…