Only the Soviets were a challenge but this country needs to get all the Business Majors back to work in a useful field. The US took and kept number one when it produced the best minds in the world, now it produces the greediest minds. The cure for cancer, energy independence and conquering space will not start at a business school--bring the challenge and engineers back.
There is no compelling reason to compete with foreign space programs. The United States has already achieved the historical milestone of being the first to put a man on the moon. Second, other countries space programs have years of catching up to do before they are where the US was nearly forty years ago. Third, there is no reason to explore space at this time beyond the pursuit of scientific knowledge. While this is a worthy cause, it is not worth the time, money, and effort needed to compete with other smaller countries.
I do not believe that the United States should compete with new space programs in Iran, South and North Korea, and other countries. That is a very costly program that although interesting does not have a lot of real world payoffs. There are plenty of private companies out there who would love to implement space problems so I do not think that the government needs to fund or compete with a space program right now.
We shouldn't try to compete with them because the simple fact of the matter is that they've got a long way to go before they even become decent competitors.
We went to the moon fifty years ago, we collaborate heavily on the International Space Station, and we have tons of technology that do everything from explore Mars to photograph Saturn and Neptune.
Why should we feel the need to compete with countries that are fifty years behind us?