Discovery landed for the last time yesterday. About its landing, astronaut Michael Barratt said earlier this week, "they've lived a very long time, they've had a fabulous success record, they've built this magnificent space station, they've given us lots of science and a tremendous amount of experience of just how to operate in space. More than anything, we look forward to seeing them retire with dignity and bringing on the next line of spaceships."
But the United State cannot, of course, replace the Shuttles. There will be no next line of spaceships. The United States is no longer the kind of nation capable of building big stuff like spaceships anymore. We couldn't build anything like the Space Shuttle today even if we wanted to -- not because of a lack of technology, but a lack of capability and will. We no longer have the industrial base to build things on that kind of scale, we no longer have the talent pool to design things on that kind of scale, we just can't. Can-do America turned into can't-do America at some point in the past thirty years, and we're all the poorer for it.
- Badtux the Sad Penguin