Say what you will, but from a standpoint of “showing off” the wonders of the space program (and astronomy), there’s nothing like pointing out ISS (and the shuttle at times) going overhead to the public, especially at star parties. They are just amazed that you can see things like that.
And truthfully, no matter now many times I’ve seen ISS and the shuttles pass overhead in the night sky, I go out and look every time (unless it’s cloudy).
Some might think it’s “fluff,” but it’s also a teaching experience for the public. And any way that we can educate the public as to the wonders of science (instead of that other crap) — well, it’s a benefit.
I can tell you, in all the times we (in our astronomy club) talk about the shuttle and the station, not one individual is bored. They hang on our every word. The public is fascinated, no matter what the media says.
And personally, I feel just like a little kid again every time I see a launch, landing, docking, or even the shuttle and/or ISS going over my head. And if, after all these years, I don’t lose the excitement and wonderment, why should be be anything if not proactive in sharing it with the public?
Last week I saw the film In the Shadow of the Moon, and saw images of kids lying on the floor in front of the television watching Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface. It brought to my mind that I was doing the exact same thing at the same time as those kids on the screen - I was lying on the floor of my uncle’s house with my cousins watching the drama unfold from 240,000 miles away.
And even though it’s been nearly forty years, I haven’t lost the interest, wonderment, and amazement of space and astronomy.
So remember, no matter what you think about a certain part of the space program personally, don’t forget the underlying love you have for it in general.