An article here gives several suggestions ("musts") for the American space program.(via Instapundit)
Despite having grown up on the Space Coast and having the occasional impulse to become an astronaut when I grew up - and as I was in high school when Challenger went down, that's a ship that sailed a long time ago - I haven't ever closely followed the particulars of NASA politics and aims.
We were in space, and that was what mattered.
Now, though, "we" are barely out of the atmosphere, and the USA isn't the only player in the game. (Possibly another opportunity we wasted in the '90's.) It's disquieting that I find Iran and North Korea's launches to be more distressing than encouraging. Whatever the near future holds, it doesn't seem to be Roddenberry's utopia.
Space-set Sci-Fi that I have loved, the very short version:
CJ Cherryh's Merchanter Universe (novels) Start with Downbelow Station and go from there.
Battlestar Galactica (TV). Some of the best dang TV ever made.
Farscape (TV). Less political than BSG, and, for me, more fun because of it.
Susan R. Matthew's Judiciary Universe (novels)(Exchange of Hostages) Not for the faint of stomach. Great characters.
David Brin's Uplift Universe (novels) Startide Rising is probably the best.
Pitch Black (movie) Aside from having Vin Diesel in it (I've watched some fairly lousy films for just this reason) this is an excellent film about humanity and redemption.
Lois Mcmaster Bujold's Naismith series (novels) Start at the beginning, which is Shards of Honor. Accessible writing, great plotting, packed with characters to love, and great fun all around.
Firefly (TV) and Serenity (movie) - Some of the science ain't quite right, but the characters and the story are not to be missed.
(This list is lacking in two points - one, that I haven't given any details on what the SF listed is about, and secondly, that I would think anyone who reads SF would already have seen those. I'll have to do better.)