Discover Goes up One More Time. Thirty Years.... and it's just a stinking cargo delivery to the ISS. Thirty years ago we were given new technology sold on the idea it would be cheaper for a reuseable launch vehicle. Can't really confirm it but I think the major selling point was the supposed capability to nab Russian spy satellites in mid-orbit. Costs to maintain, upgrade, store, and all that for hardware that's been obsolete longer than most of the Internet Generation has been alive.
Look at me, talking about Discovery's last flight like it's the last shuttle mission altogether. Then again while we're supposed to have two more down the road I honestly don't see it happening. NASA has a bad history of overestimating how many launches they'd get in. Plus I've turned bitter as is over the whole mess. I grew up, in spite of being about the only one in my family (that I remember) having any interest, a space nut. Solar system poster, watched the NOVA specials on the voyager flybys on Uranus and Neptune (voiced by Patrick Stewart no less.)
How to capture the mass interest of the world? Grand gestures? I dunno... sending somebody from the BBC up on the very last shuttle flight does seem like a nice way to end it, but what next? How do we get a generally disinterested public wanting to fund massive undertakings that would fuel the imagination of generations after? I had thought with China getting their own program off the ground natural inclination to compete would get things going, but we seem to need something to appeal to a more down to earth and immediate thing.
Let's talk mineral wealth. Forget origins of planets, or questions of life, or any of that namby-pamby mumbo-jumbo the airheads like me spout as reasons to go up there. Let's even forget the kind of research that can be done in microgravity environments and nowhere else that can give us advances in medicine, engineering and the like. Forget free energy for practically as long as you care to have the equipment in place, or enough living space for the foreseeable future. Let's even forget spinoff products that would be designed for future programs but could be useful down here. Mineral wealth alone. Iron, Aluminum, plus metals and compounds you just don't find on earth, are up there in amounts we could thrive off of if we could just get it where we could use it.