NASA has been bumbling around without much of a goal ever since they stopped sending people to the moon. Huge costs with small results, crash-landed failures, and the like have made most people lose interest in space. Bush, with his talk of a moonbase and men on Mars, is trying to bring a new grand goal to the space program. Charles Rousseaux writes:
In a sense, the president's vision marks the continuation of the Apollo missions, but there will be no more one- (or multiple Moon) shot wonders, no more marking time in low earth orbit. Instead, there will be a step-by-step move outwards. When humans reach the moon, they won't just grab a bite of green cheese and go. Instead, they'll survey, explore and begin building the infrastructure -- shelters, machinery, fuel and water depots -- for the next step outwards. They'll do the same when they reach Mars, the asteroid belt, the icy moons of Jupiter, and beyond.
I'm sympathetic - we should be out there in the solar system, working towards making sure our entire species and genetic history isn't wiped out by one apocalyptic asteroid. But I doubt the government can do this efficiently, no matter how bright the stars in their eyes are shining.