The following comments, from blogger Jason Coleman, about the Space Shuttle program are common sentiments, but not ones I agree with (link to his post):
People need to accept this, because we need to get off this rock for a number of reasons, too many for this post, and these pioneers know how dangerous it is, and they analyze the acceptable risks. The media needs to back off and let us move forward, get the shuttles flying again (even if we lose another one in a few years), and keep our space program moving forward.
It's been too long since we've seen a video of intrepid American asronauts pushing the envelope of manned exploration of the heavens. For me, the site of the shuttle roaring off the pad is an affirmation that humans as a species are moving forward. I can't wait to feel that way again.
If people want to risk their lives flying into space that’s fine with me, but I don’t buy into the idea that the space shuttle program is actually accomplishing anything.
It’s not clear why we “need” to get off this rock. Sure, it would certainly be cool if we could fly around the galaxy, but the real world isn’t Star Trek. There is no evidence that visiting other star systems will ever be something that’s technologically feasible.
Flying the same two decade old space shuttles into low orbit four times a year is hardly “moving forward.” Big deal, we put a man into low orbit in the 1960s. Heck, we sent men to the moon in the 1960s, but 26 years later the best we can muster is low orbit.
The space shuttle program is kind of like the pyramids of Egypt. One Pharaoh built a huge pyramid at Giza, much the way that Kennedy sent men to the moon. Both are accomplishments that the world will remember forever, even though they were dead ends as far as moving forward. The Great Pyramid didn’t lead to the Egyptians building skyscrapers. In the same manner, it may be thousands of years before genuinely useful space travel becomes practical.
Just as all the Pharaohs who followed in the footsteps of Cheops wasted a lot of resources building big monuments even though none were ever again as grand as the Great Pyramid, all of the U.S. presidents after Kennedy have to send men into space even though what Kennedy accomplished can never truly be duplicated.
(Also see Rand Simberg's post.)