Let's make a bold assumption: the US is, eventually, going to want to go to space. Whether it's colonisation, scientific research, mining for resources, or even just beating the Chinese as a matter of national pride.
So why has Congress been so slow to act? The ageing but still serviceable shuttle program was retired on the assumption that promising but untested private enterprises like SpaceX would be able to pick up the slack - but even the most optimistic projections should see that there would be a significant shortfall.
It's easy but still somewhat accurate to blame the US's culture of partisan party politics; a Republican-held House and Senate are notably anti-science, apparently on principle, and despite studies suggesting that NASA's ROI is significant it's still hard to justify spending extra money on government projects, especially when a big chunk of NASA's most visible work is to improve our understanding of climate science.
That, and it has been politically difficult to justify spending money on NASA during one of the largest economic depressions in history, and investment in NASA is not a short-term activity. As has become clear, decades of steady defunding in real terms has led to a shortfall in capacity and a reliance on other nations to pick up the slack.
What this all means is that when the US ends up needing to go to space they're going to be facing an uphill struggle both in investment and development.
With luck, though, the current political situation may be to NASA's advantage in the future, or at the very least to the advantage of SpaceX and others in the private sector. A jingoistic US is going to find it much more difficult to work with and rely on an unapologetically belligerent Russia, which may mean more political reasons to invest in the domestic space industry.
While cooperation in space travel is undoubtedly a good thing, sometimes a little competitive spirit is needed to spur people into investing.
“Unfortunately, for five years now, the Congress … has not adequately funded the commercial crew programme to return human spaceflight launches to American soil this year as planned,” Bolden wrote. “This has resulted in continued sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as our crew transport vehicle for American and international partner crews.” Nasa retired its space shuttles in 2011. It is partnering with privately owned SpaceX and Boeing to develop space capsules that can ferry astronauts to and from the station 250 miles (402km) above Earth. Nasa had hoped to begin US flights by 2017 but House and Senate budget proposals for the fiscal year beginning on 1 October would leave its commercial crew programme short, likely resulting in additional delays and higher costs, Bolden wrote.