WASAHINGTON As things stand now, U.S. manned spaceflight is dead in the water.
A combination of budget woes, disagreements over where in the heavens to go next and the absence of a clear set of goals has reduced the once-supreme U.S. manned space program to a space transport and maintenance operation in low-Earth orbit that's scheduled to end next year with the retirement of the Space Shuttle.
That leaves only the International Space Station, and no way for the United States to get there without Russian help. Moreover, the station has drained tens of billions of dollars from NASA's coffers over the last two decades, hamstringing the space agency's other manned spaceflight operations.
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