Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the United States space program is coming to an end. Well, not the whole thing, technically. However, with the economic situation as it is, the end of the shuttle program essentially means the end of the dream for a lot of people.
I see this first-hand everyday, living on Florida's Space Coast. NASA, and the shuttles are so much a part of the local identity, and fuels a great deal of the local economy. Tourists come in to see the launches, or visit the Kennedy Space Center. With the shuttles down, and other NASA programs getting cut right and left to work down that deficit the culture of science and exploration that allowed science fiction to flourish is expiring.
While often lumped together, sci-fi is not like fantasy. It's not just about escapism, but about real dreams that we -believe- we can achieve, whether they're truly possible or not. Exploring distant planets, meeting new species, discovering technologies to improve our own lives here. This is all with-in the realm of what seems plausible, however far off.
So what happens to science fiction when the fiction of the past is the reality of today, and the final frontier is considered far off and irrelevant? Sure we'll hitch rides with Russians, and there's a few people with commercial space ventures, but that's all off to the side. It's not headline news.
I pose this question: where does science fiction go now that science fact is grounded?