By now, the space shuttle Atlantis is docked and the astronauts have hung up their space suits for the last time. The space race is finally finished, 20 years after the Cold War ended (some say the space race ended in 1975, but a new poll suggests attitudes haven't really changed since).
It would be easy for us to just write off the last 60 years as misguided, macho battle with our Communist rivals that was fought out on chalkboards and in labs. But we are all earthlings, and we have had a fascination with the cosmos since time began. We see it throughout history with (Galileo). We see it in literature (H.G. Wells). We see it in art (Vincent van Gogh). We even hear it in children's songs like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." My point is, we, as human beings, love space. We are and always have been intrigued by its breadth, its mystery and its beauty, and the end of the shuttle program will not change that.
As the shuttle program advanced, though, so did films about space and the space program, meaning we could look at the cosmos in a whole new way. The special effects made for entertaining spectacle, while the darkness, unknowability and sheer size of the universe made great metaphors for life, spirituality and our own inquisitive nature.
Here are five of our favorite films about space.