Cheerio shuttle. It's a poignant shot - I was very young when Columbia took off, we all were, and I think that like most kids of my generation I had an impulse to phone NASA and ask if they wanted to be the first space agency to put a kid into space. Obviously that's not likely to happen any more. And yet kids are small, can be trained to do simple tasks, don't mind being cooped up with other kids for extended periods of time, don't need much food, keep active naturally, they would make excellent astronauts!
Here's my copy of the National Geographic that celebrated the launch (my parents bought it for me, I read it until it fell apart, then bought another copy):
I always thought that the fuel tank looked nicer painted white, but apparently the paint weighed a lot and had no functional purpose, so they took it off. Which makes sense, if you imagine lots of buckets of pain. Sadly the tank wasn't naturally metal, like a P-51, it was dull brown. And then I learned that the shuttle didn't just land and take off again, it had to be completely overhauled between each flight; and the boosters were thrown away, so why not just bundle together a bunch of boosters and stick a satellite on the top? And where was it shuttling to? There was no moonbase, no asteroid mines, no orbital factories constructing an interstellar generation ship. Just satellites and a nice view of the Earth, although too close to see it as a blue marble.
Do kids still dream about space? I get the impression that up until the Apollo project and into the post-"2001" era space was like heaven; an unknowable domain where a mysterious force waited to show us the way, if only we would open our minds. But the aliens never came, we never found a monolith, and the party broke up. "Close Encounters" had an air of nostalgia even in 1978, and after that the dream of alien contact became a nightmare of abduction, experimentation, and mutilation. In the real world space had become a grimy work environment akin to an oil rig. It must have felt as if we had been rejected by someone, left to rot on this rock.
But then again, fads come and go, and space was one of them. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke are dead; the sad thing about science fiction is that so much of it has fallen out of print, or will end up unread in a zip file on a sharing matrix, floating in the internet. But I'm sure there was a time when parents felt sad that their children didn't want to grow up to be knights, or sailors. And I suspect that for most people the goal of being an astronaut was just a vague notion, and even for the few who applied themselves it was still an untenable thing. Each century has a set of dreams, rolling on through the generations; some vanish, some remain, some come true, some turn into nightmares. If the greatest dreams evaporate in the light of day we can take comfort that the worst nightmares evaporate as well. And there were some nightmares in the 20th century.
On a tangent, whenever I get bored at work I read through Greg Goebel's concise history of the race for the moon, except that it covers essentially the entire space race from the 1930s until the end of the Apollo project:http://www.vectorsite.net/tamrc.html
It's a melancholic blend of people who wanted to send rockets into space for the same reason that drives everybody who is driven, funded by people who wanted to send rockets into space so that they could be used to bring an explosive payload down on the other side of the world, and both camps needed the other, and for a time it worked out. Different dreams, same hardware.