With the final launch of the Atlantis Space Shuttle two weeks ago and its (hopefully) safe return this Tuesday, we witnessed the end of an important era for NASA. Unfortunately, given the economic crisis and budgetary cuts, things aren't looking too hot for the near future, and that ought to worry us.
There is no denying that the scientific advances made by the space program have been invaluable simply in terms of what we've managed to learn about our immediate surroundings and even the far reaches of the universe. Still, I would argue that its largest contribution has been with that of inspiring generations of people with a vision of what we can accomplish when we roll up our sleeves, learn science and engineering, and are given the opportunity to make our dreams come true.
John Oliver, from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, meditates on the significance of the shuttle program, and discusses the issue with some important and inspiring figures.