Let's face it. With each passing year, the Space Shuttle grows more and more pathetic. Bold promises for human spaceflight continue to ring hollow.
Robots will always be cheaper and do more science. SpaceShipOne is just a joyride–and no, that's not just sour grapes over the ticket price–four or five minutes in freefall is simply not a useful engineering accomplishment. Colonizing is really the only reason
for humans in space. Aside from supporting good international relations, and keeping Russian scientists and engineers employed and destracted from building missles for the highest bidder, the International Space Station has no serious mission.
The point is that none of these things has any long term reason for being. But you've all heard me gripe about this stuff before. So what's my constructive alternative?
The world's space agencies (ESA, IPNE, RKA, NASA, NASDA, CNSA, ISRO and anyone else who is willing to spend a few billion dollars.) should band together and build a few space elevators.
Only if they do this will I take human spaceflight seriously again. Interesting article in Spectrum about the space elevator.