I wish space shuttles had names like monster trucks...
I watch space shuttle launches to see if they'll explode.
There, I said it. But it's true. It's always been true, and not just since the Columbia disaster. I watch shuttle launches for the same reason people watch a fist fight. Or car racing. Do people REALLY enjoy watching cars go around in a circle? I think not. They want to see some carnage. An 18 car pileup coming out of turn 2. An errant tire bounding over the barrier fence and into the crowd, maiming twelve. A 2000 pound stock car turning end-over-end-over-end-over-end. The driver ejected from the car and into a sea of flames derived from inflammability. As the driver is carted off the track into a waiting ambulance, the only bone in his body that isn't broken, his thumb, signals the crowd by rising upward. What's that you say? Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag and has pulled within 30 points of 2nd place in the point standings? Yawn. Hey, what's say we replay that crash 20 more times?
Comparatively, do people really care about the actual missions of the space shuttle? Do people care that the shuttle will launch or repair another imaging satellite, or deliver food supplies to space station inhabitants, or conduct experiments to determine the effects of weightlessness on circumsized goat penises? People don't care. They just want their daily dose of carnage.
It's human nature.
If NASA wants people to get interested in the space program again like they were in the 60's, they need to embrace and exploit this human nature. During press conferences prior to launch, NASA should express uncertainty every chance that they get. If a reporter asks, "Do you feel confident that the shuttle is safer since the Columbia disaster?", they should respond, "Shoot, we don't know. This space business is dangerous and unpredictable. We're just gonna light this candle and see what happens." In fact, that should be the stock answer to darn near any question thrown at them.
To add to the uncertainty, NASA should throw caution to the wind. Literally. They should launch during inclement weather conditions such as when Hurricane Dennis just rolled by Florida. High winds + solid rocket fuel = edge-of-your seat television.
And would it kill NASA to paint some flames on the shuttle? It obviously already has bitchin' flames shooting out the back on liftoff, but some bitchin' graphics would be a nice touch.
To add to their new tough-guy, rebel, bad boy image, NASA also needs to get rid of those weenie names they've got for the shuttles. Discovery? Atlantis? Endeavour? Boring, boring, and boring. Get some new names similar to monster truck or roller coaster names. Name a shuttle "The Equalizer", "Widowmaker", "Spacezilla", "Asteroid Avenger", "Slick Willy", or "SuperNovasaurus Wrex."
So picture this then. Spacezilla II is poised on the launch pad (Spacezilla I having been lost in a risky 75 degree re-entry maneuver last autumn). Bitchin' flames extend from nose to tail. "Rock You Like a Hurricane" is booming on the outdoor sound system as an actual hurricane roars over Cape Canaveral. The crowd around the launch pad is HUGE. The TV networks are pulling a 45 share. Then, Mission Control announces to the crowd over the loudspeakers, "Are you ready to rock, Orlando? I said are you ready to rock!! Screw the countdown! Let's light this puppy!" Guitars wail. The crowd goes nuts.
What happens next? Nobody knows. And that's the point.