East Texans Question the Cost of Space Exploration

"You know, if we do have another accident in this program, it's not going to be due to the foam," said Astronaut Scott Kelly. "It's probably going to be due to something we don't even know about now. Hopefully, that won't happen with the number of flights we have remaining."

A primary goal of our space program is to enhance understanding of the solar system by exploring planets, their moons, asteroids, and comets. Some folks see it as a giant step for mankind, others see it as a giant waste of money.

Albert Brown said, "I think it could be spent better on the people in this country instead of wasting it in space, to tell you the truth. They've got a lot of technology to help, that's true, but these people in Texas rank number one for hunger; it's something wrong."

Albert Brown is one of many East Texans in favor of science and technology research, but he's against spending millions of dollars to do it. And he's not alone.

"Our business should be here on the Earth, taking care of number one first, which is the United States," said Willie Deason. "We do not have people there that need attention, we have people here that need the attention and the money."

Others disagree, calling space exploration an up close and personal look into the future.

Dona Ford said, "I think it's real exciting and my kids were real excited about watching the shuttle go up, so I don't have a problem with them spending money on that. Sometimes, I wish they would put a little more emphasis on education, but maybe they will in the future."

Last week's launch was the first shuttle mission since last July. NASA has 16 more missions planned before the shuttle is retired in 2010.

A space shuttle mission now costs about $425 million. NASA said many products and technologies have been developed thanks to experiments done on these missions.