The last space shuttle has landed. It’s sad, but not because America has lost its only way of putting humans into orbit; not because there’s no replacement ready (there wasn’t one when Apollo ended either).
It’s sad because each shuttle wasn’t just a disposable machine like all its predecessors; it was a ship, and like earthbound ships each orbiter had a life — and a personality — which was contributed to by the thousands of people who flew them, worked with them, and followed their flights.
So yes, I’m sad to see the shuttle go. It was a gigantic, expensive, dangerous, fantastically complex white elephant — a product of a government design process gone pathologically wrong. But each shuttle had a life, and that’s what differentiated them from just another capsule.
Perhaps one day we’ll be ready to try building a reusable craft which works, which actually makes economic sense, but until that day I think we’ll remember the shuttle more fondly than we did Apollo.