Interesting pair of articles:
"Space: Is the final frontier all it used to be?", by Ted Anthony, for AP, discusses the lack of enthusiasm for space we're seeing today, compared to the super enthusiasm of forty years ago. Also some interesting stuff about pop culture, paranoia, sf, and sense of wonder. Sample quote:
Our visions of [space] have become darker, more suspicious, more xenophobic. When a space shuttle launches, many Americans don't really notice unless something goes wrong. In a country defined by its obsession with novelty, often the response is predictably American, the thing that makes us great and weak at the same time: Been there, done that.
(I'm not sure I buy "more xenophobic" per se, considering the cultural and sf-related trends of the '50s. But I see what he's getting at.)
From a different angle entirely, an LA Times article by John Johnson Jr. about the engineering effort that went into the Saturn V rockets for the Apollo project. Sample quote:
The success of America's big bet in space depended on the ability of young, unheralded engineers to build rocket engines that were both powerful enough and reliable enough to wrench the spacecraft from Earth's jealous grasp and send it winging to the lunar surface.