I believe that we really need to dream, to be bold, and to invest in science and technology as a country. To find areas where we want to lead the world and make bold commitments. But the sad fact is that the shuttle probably was not the right platform for us to rally behind.
The space shuttle unfortunately never delivered on the original promise to make space travel fast, cheap, safe, and easy. It did have a large payload capacity, but the rest of its mission objectives could could probably have been better served by some less complex and more traditional launch vehicles. In the end it turned out to be a very complex, expensive, and dangerous way to perform many of its missions.
In any case, the program is over now, and very little value can come from condemning a decision that can no longer be changed. If we want to see a program that inspires and supports STEMS, than perhaps we might want to consider what new project or program that we might want to see our government get behind. What new areas are there that might inspire the next generation of STEMS students?
I personally would love to see our country invest in technology. To strive and dare to lead on some important new technology frontier. Perhaps even one that has more short term value. We are currently facing monumental environmental challenges at the same time we are hitting a world population that has started to over run many of our resources. Climate change and environmental damage is threatening the very future of the students we are trying to inspire. But we are not doing much to address these very urgent and important needs in areas where science and technology might offer some hope.
Perhaps we should take this opportunity to find a new focus for STEMS inspiration, and I cannot think of a better one that clean renewable energy. I grew up in the space age, and space programs really inspired me. But many young people today do not seem to have the same level of interest in space as I did. If the FIRST community wants a inspire this generation it would be much easier to promote technology that addresses areas where they are already engaged, and programs that have an environmental focus seem to have more resonance with today’s youth.
Just my opinion.