I can barely say I was alive when men first walked the moon, but in those years from 1969-1972, I fell in love with space exploration, like many other young boys. The much awaited Augustine report is available and the news is bad (executive summary here). Now, it may be another generation before any man sets foot on another world. Unless NASA gets a minimum $3B/year cash injection, manned space launches are coming to an end in 2011 and not returning until (most likely) 2018.
Trips to the moon or Mars: likely never.
It is instructive that the panel believes that the path to low earth orbit manned missions lies in the commercial sector, saying, "The United States needs a way to launch astronauts to low-Earth orbit, but it does not necessarily have to be provided by the government. As we move from the complex, reusable Shuttle back to a simpler, smaller capsule, it is an appropriate time to consider turning this transport service over to the commercial sector."
Interesting stuff, but former Apollo 12 moonwalker, Alan Bean, summed up where we are on space exploration and going back to the moon, or Mars, "I know we could do it, but we're not going to. I want to go, but I know I'm in the minority." The nation was driven in the 1960s by the desire to prove its superiority over the Soviets, Bean said. Without a similar motivation now, returning to the moon will be viewed by most Americans as too expensive. "Future generations will have to find a reason," he said. "There's just not a reason now."
And that's the bottom line. We just can't find a reason amid $800B stimulus packages and potentially $1T government takeovers of health care. We can't.