I have mixed feelings about the U.S. getting out of the space race. On one hand it is a symbol of national pride, and now we are giving it up, abandoning it. We were not been beaten in the space race, we forfeited.
Another point is the space shuttle program has gone on far too long. It should have been replaced by something less cumbersome years ago. Or at least other programs should have been developed along side the shuttle. 30 years of a single program does not sound like a race, unless it is a turtle race. The long life of the shuttle program is the product of government bureaucracy and inertia.
On the other hand, everything the government is involved with is hugely expensive, and much is unnecessary. Since Obama announced we are pulling out, I have read of several private companies that are ready to take the government’s place at no cost to the taxpayer other than whatever the government pays for their services. While I know little about these companies, I am willing to bet their services are a fraction of what the same things would cost had the government done them.
I think about the small space craft that was launched to win a million dollar prize a few years ago. Could the government have done that for so little money? Absolutely not. And I think about the private companies that are developing aircraft capable of taking paying passengers into space as they fly from city to city. To fly into space with a government craft requires years of multi-million dollar training.
Time will tell if space is best explored by private companies or by governments.