Thanks for a reminder about how the term "rocket science" started. Although I've been told by people in the know that "Even rocket science isn't rocket science," meaning it's not nearly as complex as some of the technologies it's compared to in phrases using that term. I also seek the satisfaction of doing things well, although I can't see that as selfish. I think that's a value associated with certain generations, although I helped instill it in my nephew while helping to raise him. I'm just happy to have it.
Dave, a lot of the excitement in the early days of space exploraiton had to do with the fact that it was totally new. There was also a cold war aspect. It was competition with the Soviets. I agree with you that there is a lot of interesting stuff going on now. Perhaps part of it is that it is not really percieved as new, and part is that there are lots of other applications of technology. Of course a part of it is that NASA is not so good at promoting itself as it was, in my opinion.
@ Dave P, I too have been fascinated by the space program since I saw Armstrong walk on the moon live on television. I became consumed by everything space related fro the age of 4 into adulthood, so I think inspiration should begin as early as possible. Also, it would help immensely if schools taught children how to think, not what to think.
@naperlou: I also think that space plays a different role in the public imagination than it did in the 1960s or even in the 1980s. I remember Star Trek IV, SpaceCamp, Flight of the Navigator, and other films that presented an overwhelmingly positive and optimistic vision of space travel. Star Trek, in particular, was a huge inspiration to me. More recent movies (even including the more recent Star Trek films) tend to present a darker, grittier, and less kid-friendly view of space.