The questions surrounding the space shuttle program only amplify as we turn our attention to other expensive government programs whose effectiveness is at least somewhat questionable. At what point do we stop throwing money after money in pursuit of noble goals with flawed means?
We are rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but without real assurance that another major storm won't finish the ugly work of washing away the Crescent City. Just now we're learning about huge sums of money that have seemingly vanished into air in the effort to stabilize New Orleans following last year's storm.
We routinely dispatch massive amounts of aid dollars to nations across the world, many of which take advantage of our generosity by perpetuating kleptomaniacal dictatorships, while others openly denounce us even as they grab the cash.
And then there's money for our military troops abroad, money for troops stateside, money for a massive transportation bill, subsidized drugs for the lucky seniors who understand how to qualify for them -- the list goes on and on.
As with the shuttle, many of these projects have merit when viewed in a vacuum. When costs and other programs are set aside, a lot of them appear more than worthy of support from the federal government. But the problem is that you and I don't pay for them in a vacuum; we pay for them one and all. And too many of them are predicated on dated concepts or flawed execution.
Certainly I say "Godspeed" to this current NASA mission. But after it safely returns, it's time for Congress to put the shuttle into "For Emergency Use Only" status and instead spend our money on projects that use 21st century technology for 21st century uses.
Better yet, don't spend it at all until we know how to spend it wisely.