Much is made lately of the problems at NASA. While some of that criticism is well-deserved (the shuttle program in particular), NASA often gets the shaft when it comes to the projects they got very, very right.
Projects such as the Hubble telescope. Yesterday was the Hubble's 15th anniversary, the projected end of its service life. Even with current budget problems, the project could feasibly continue operating for an additional 3 to 6 years. With the shuttle's functional and budget problems, there certainly won't be a de-orbit mission for quite some time.
Mars rovers, NASA has had two very long-running programs that have made front page news that then faded onto page G15. It should be news on the order of the Apollo programs. The constant bean-counting and administrative BS only undermines the true purpose of projects like this. Exploration is tough, and it costs money. While the idea human space flight is sexy and, in some respects, a necessary component of space exploration, it's not very efficient. The benefits to all of us is tangible. The intangibles are even greater.
Pictures like these are more than just striking images: they are the hard science we need to have. This is the kind of thing that inspires a new generation to become engineers, scientists, and pioneers. It's money well spent.