I just watched the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Wow, night launches are spectacular.
I was too young to truly remember the lunar landings, although I was alive for them. I clearly remember the Skylab and Apollo-Soyez missions. One of the tragedies of space exploration IMO has been the destruction of the artifacts involved. How I wish some way of saving Skylab and some of the Soviet stations had been accomplished...perhaps by boosting them into a higher orbit. Even now there is already discussion of destroying the Hubble telescope instead of trying to save it for posterity.
I was a firm believer and supporter of the shuttle program in the beginning, although I now believe we probably should have stuck with solid fuel boosters. Its biggest failing was attempting to be a JOAT (Jack of all Trades), so it does a lot of things poorly, and nothing really well.
When you stop to consider the technology used in the shuttles it is stunning how antiquated they already are. Their primary technology is 20 years old. Would you like to be using a twenty year old computer? cellphone? TV? Walkman? Gameconsole?
The shuttles are to be replaced by a new system. Hopefully it will be more successful. However I firmly believe that there is already a functioning spaceplane (Aurora?) at Groom Lake, and if there isn't, there sure as hell should be. If Rutan can build a functional spaceplane, the Air Force damn well better have, or heads should roll.