Since the first Space Shuttle flight man has built instruments that can observe the conditions present in the opening hours of the universe and map the tiniest variations in the Earth's gravitational field. We can pinpoint the location of a person to within inches using a network of satellites and man made objects are leaving the extreme boundaries of the solar system and journeying into the inconceivable blackness of interstellar space. We've sent unmanned, robotically automated vehicles to a space station built by the co-operation of numerous nations. That's serious progress in half a century.
Despite all of these huge first-ever events the Space Shuttle still occupies an important place in the human psyche. Along with icons such as Sputnik and Uri Gagarin it continues to represent the success of human endeavour and will no doubt continue to do so long after it's final voyage is completed. Inspiration is the father of discovery, and that, despite the danger and the tragedies of the program will be it's lasting legacy.