Neil Armstrong once offered his services as mission commander on any future flights to Mars. Now he's dead.
Meanwhile, China has set up it's own orbital habitat because the ISS just isn't cool enough for them anymore. It fits a growing pattern - China outpacing the US in real developments. Some months back, the GOP Psyops Division was dancing a funky chicken over the contraction of the American solar industry in contrast to an opposite Chinese expansion. 'Cause solar power is a commie plot, see. Just more dirty hippy crap promoted by those dirty hippy Democrats.
Anyone who genuinely cares about America's future was rightly horrified. The direction the global economy is going is renewables and it doesn't care if you think that's gay. This wasn't Obama's failure so much as America losing another very important battle with China.
We keep losing these battles and, much like all our other lost battles, we just don't want to examine why. Doing so would strip a lot of popular bullshit from the discourse - about how individuals are better at achieving things than groups or how private enterprise is more efficient and less bureaucratic than government. All the self-congratulatory nonsense we soak in to avoid the truth that our chosen way to the live - the business way - has utterly failed us and America.
And space travel is really the greatest piece of evidence that the business way just doesn't work. Human spaceflight is the one thing we can point to as a species and be proud of without any of the usual caveats - war and tribal hatreds - that mar our other achievements. Nothing else in the universe has managed anything similar that we know of and it's ultimately imperative to our very survival.
But there's no profit in it. There can't be. It's a huge investment for the intangible results of pride and incremental increases in understanding the cosmos. You can't put that on an earnings report, you can't chop it into collateralized debt obligations, and you sure as shit can't do it half-assed.
So this is how the American Century ends. Not with a bang or a whimper but with a bunch of self-satisfied mediocrities snickering at their own collective failure, imagining it all to be part of the usual horse-race politics.