Here's a thought for how to encourage private (and Amercian) commercial Space Exploration.
Pass and sign legislation stating the following:
"Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States: The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay to the first American-owned company - and if a corporation at least 75% of the shares must be held by American citizens - the following amounts for specific accomplishments. No monies shall be paid until the goals specified are accomplished and certified by suitable experts from the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Science. The payments made shall be exempt from *all* US taxes.
1. ("The One X-Prize") - The sum of $1 billion to be paid for the completion of a beyond-earth-orbit unmanned mission with a spacecraft which maintains a *constant* thrust of at least 1/100th of a G for a period not less than 1 month (30 days). Said mission should carry a science package weighing at least 1000 kg and use on-board instruments to study a planetary body outside the earth-moon system (minimum distance ten (10) million miles from Earth).
2. ("The Three X-Prize") - The sum of $3 billion to be paid for construction of three (3) operational spacecraft which have achieved LEO (low earth orbit), returned to earth, and flown to orbit again three (3) times within a period of three (3) weeks.
3. ("The Five X-Prize") - The sum of $5 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a space station which has been continuously in orbit with at least five (5) Americans aboard for a period of not less than one thousand and one (1001) days. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the station be unoccupied.
4. ("The Ten X-Prize") - The sum of $10 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a solar power satellite system which delivers at least 1000 megaWatts of electric power to a receiving station (or stations) located within the continental (48 states) United States for a period of at least one hundred (100) weeks.
5. ("The Twenty-Five X-Prize") - The sum of $25 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a Lunar base in which no fewer than 25 Americans have continuously resided one thousand and one (1001) days. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the base be unoccupied.
* * * This is chump change compared to what has been doled out the last few years with NO promise or guarantee of results. AND note that not one red cent is to be paid until a specifically defined goal is accomplished and verified. Yeah, there is a HUGE amount of risk for the business, but the potential rewards beyond the prize money itself is tremendous. Note that there is no requirement to 'turn over' said base or equipment to the government - it will remain privately owned and operated. This is simply a mechanism to reward those willing to take the risk. Besides, if the task can't be done for the amount of the reward money... no harm done to the treasury.
Just a thought... Beats the hell out of standing around and going nowhere.