NASA has lost its cojones after Apollo got cancelled. They should have then immediately pushed for a long distance Mars mission. NASA should have been thinking of Record breaking feats of history such as the early long distance flights between Scotland and South Africa or long distance record breaking journeys between the United States and Europe. Instead of record breaking journeys NASA was thinking about launch another 50th robot at Venus or Mars.
I don't know why science fiction is so Navy centric with stories constantly involving naval officers, if you ask me its the wrong mindset for putting a man on Mars. NASA's next logical step after the Moon should have been Mars but instead it was a story of going around in circles trying to repair satellites, or build navy style space stations so people would carry out petri dish experiments in zero G or carrying out Navy like drills ie astronauts ringing bells to mark arrival of space tourists on a Russian taxi, or footage of Com specialists reporting uninteresting stuff to CNN about the the thousandth and one space walk, astronauts doing laundry etc If you ask me NASA's best days are behind it while we should either sell most off to the private sector or allow the US army or Air Force to step in and own manned flight sections since the military guys got more backbone when it comes to pushing the envelope even if it comes with an unfortunate the cost of men.
NASA should also reconsider the use of nuclear rocketry which was banned during the 70s, this kind of power can cut travel time down to a few weeks making travel more like a space plane rather than spending a year sailing a Navy style vessel to Mars and taking another long year to get home. By that time many of your astronauts could be starving or sick or sterile from long term exposure solar radiation. Shuttle was not an Airforce mindset, the Air Force knows it can lose men but it tries its best to keep everyone safe and at least equips its pilots with ejector seats. Saturn-V and Soyuz had great escape mechanisms, Shuttle safety was more like a 19th century mindset, more like the Titanic death trap supported by an outdated Navy plan. If it hit a glitch, there were no lifeboats, no ejector seats and the people on board were most likely doomed.