"Life in space is so complicated that a lot of logistics have to be off-loaded to the ground if astronauts are to actually do anything substantive. Just building the schedule for the astronauts in orbit on the U.S. side of the station requires a full-time team of 50 staffers.
I'm sorry, but that just flies in the face of reason. If its true, then NASA is doing something badly wrong. It should not take 50x as long to figure out what order to do things as it does to actually do them. I could understand a complex operation like a spacewalk taking 50 man hours to plan for a one hour project, but the majority of things that people do simply do not benefit from that extreme level of planning.
A good example of the over-thinking that NASA does is the Columbia Crew survivability report. Many tens of thousands of hours were spent on the analysis that concluded the same thing that just about anyone could have stated after 30 seconds of deliberation: There were many different factors involved in supersonic re-entry, most of which are fatal, and there is no known technology that could have saved the crew from any significant portion of those factors. Yet NASA felt it necessary to spend millions on that part of the investigation...
If people want to continue NASA in any meaningful way, two decisions need to be made: First, what do we really want NASA to accomplish? (meaning we the people, NOT we the NASA), and how much will it really cost.
I can virtually guarantee that no one cares if NASA achieves any more science. What people want NASA to be achieving is the engineering of going into space and staying there. Everything else costs more than it is worth, and should be undertaken only if the costs can be partially subsidized by the engineering projects needed to achieve cheap space travel.
Given the progression of human engineering expression, space travel should be accessible to a significant minority of the worlds population. 35 years after the wright brothers, the entire upper middle class could afford to fly. 35 years after Apollo, only a handfull of people have even been to the moon, and less than 100 individuals could afford to pay out of pocket to do so today, and even if they did, they would have to wait 10 years for someone to put together a dedicated mission.
NASA has failed in its primary responsibility to the American people: Make space travel commonplace.