There are so many problems the US faces in having a manned space program.
1. Lack of Leadership. President Obama’s attitude towards establishing a lunar base is
“We’ve been there before.”He sees the manned space program as a series of bigger and better publicity stunts. His speeches are statements of intent for a plan to be made by someone, sometime, in the nebulous future, details to be worked out by future administrations.
“We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history…By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.”But nothing concrete during his administration.
2. Congressional Pork. The attitude of the POTUS is actually an advabce on the attitude of Congress, The whole space program is seen as a way of buying votes for individual congresscritters, funneling money to their congressional districts. If nothing actually gets accomplished, so much the better, as it means the largesse will continue. The last thing they want is the gravy train to be derailed by premature success.
3. The “Can Do” attitude of NASA administration – along with blatant dishonesty trying to sell their projects by minimising the likely costs, and over-promising performance. Then when they only get 70% of the money actually needed, not having the guts to say “no, we can’t do this, either give us what’s needed or don’t waste money on a project that’s doomed from the start.”
4. Misinformation amongst the general public about the situation. Many people think the US is routinely flying not just Interplanetary manned missions, but Interstellar ones. That we have FTL. They don’t realise that our current capabilities are about the same as they were in 1960.
5. Misinformation amongst the general public about the budget allocated to NASA. Many think it must be 10% or higher. Some think it must be 30%, or more, rivalling HEW or the Dept of Defence. In fact, it’s 0.5c in the dollar. The total amount spent under the Obama administration on space development is far less than was spent to bail out GM.
I expect a Chinese permanent presence on the Moon by 2050. Probably not self-sustaining by then, but lunar exploration being about as routine as Antarctic exploration today (ie not very). And just as with Antarctica, the discovery of lots of resources too, to be developed in the century after that. The Moon is an excellent place to make the “baby steps” needed before tackling Mars and the Belt.
I don’t see the USA participating in this, though US companies may dominate LEO by then.