I think the Shuttle was a pointless, dead-end piece of Cold War penis-envy mostly concerned with militarising space. It was also a beautiful, noble enterprise which appeared to give us perspective: from space, we all look the same, and this poisoned rock looked relatively unharmed by the stupid things we do to it. It's a reactionary dream - that we can 'beat' gravity, go faster, escape the consequences of our actions - and yet 'to boldly go' for the sake of it is utterly seductive. The Shuttle looked like the future because it wasn't a few blocked perched on top of a missile. Next stop: the Enterprise.
Actually, the next stop was the junkyard, while the Russian fireworks continue to taxi cosmonauts and astronauts safely into orbit. But this video by McLean Fahnestock (now there's a name conjured from a space opera) is a stunning work of art. Drawing on minimalism, it's a collage of all 135 launches - video and sound, until just one, tragic, journey ends the dream. Turn up the speakers, put it on full-screen and be prepared for tears.