Regardless of NASA cutting back on its space program, space projects will still be a prominent part of scientific endeavor in the first half of the 21st Century.
The New Space Powers
New economic giants such as China will be a major player in space exploration, and may well be the first country that lands men on Mars. Asia, generally, seems to have no shortage of countries that have the capability of investing in space programs, including India and Japan. Russia, with its new economic muscle, will also continue to invest in space exploration. The European Space Agency may be temporarily hindered by the economic crisis in the Eurozone, but will bounce back.
The more countries there are that take an interest in space projects, then the greater likelihood of NASA being prodded into reacting. America's original enthusiasm for putting men into space, and subsequently on the Moon, was never purely down to exploration for its own sake. The Cold War, and the desire for the Soviet Union and the United States to put one over each other, was an equally strong driving force.
The current situation with NASA seems more a case of regrouping. If one country or organization announces a planned mission to Mars, for instance, then it will have a positive impact on space programs around the world. It would be strange to see NASA happily take a backseat as it started to slip down the pecking order of space travel.
A Great Opportunity for Mankind
In the 1960s there were only two countries who could genuinely put men into space on a regular basis - the United States and the then Soviet Union. But, there are two reasons why space travel in the 21st Century can really flourish. Firstly, there are more nations who are capable of putting men in space. Secondly, the relationships between all these countries is good enough for a united effort. The latter also seems more practical in terms of economics.
There is a great opportunity for mankind in the 21st Century to reach new heights in space exploration. Man is almost genetically engineered to want to explore, and NASA will still play an important part, even if it becomes more of an advisory role.
NASA is a prestigious organization, and is respected by any country with ambitions in space exploration. It will surely still have an important part to play in this century and possibly even beyond.