Oberg's column surprises me. One who has co-authored a book on space exploration must certainly realize the condition that NASA is in: It has placed all its money on one bet, namely the space shuttle and future manned projects such as the space station, and the bet has failed. The space program will be paralyzed for at least another six months in the wake of the Challenger accident, while unmanned projects such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Galileo Jupiter Probe collect dust, their plutonium energy sources running lower and lower every day they are on the ground.
These experiments could do more for "pioneering space," as Oberg calls it, than any shuttle mission ever could. No facilities remain to put these projects in space, though. The shuttle was the only beneficiary of NASA's budget, and now U.S. space exploration is paying the price.
As I see it, the choice is this: continue the shuttle program as it is and let "ordinary" Americans (like me) on board, further driving up the cost and risking the loss of another billion-dollar piece of hardware, not to mention the lives. Or follow Sally Ride's initiative to put the U.S. back in the lead in space exploration by committing itself to a diverse approach to space exploration and a professionals-only attitude until those professionals have made space travel safe. The teachers-in-space program is wonderful public relations, but it slows down an already lame space program.