It's also so disappointing compared to what could be.
The ISS is basically a waste of money, with no real science going on. All the real science in space is done using unmanned probes. The new infrared space telescope is a good example, which is going to be put out at one of the L points, I think L2, so that it's in a stable orbit and away from the interferance of the Earth. Another good example are the Mars rovers, which have quietly explored for month after month. Compare this to the total of about a week that the Apollo program managed to get a trained scientist onto the moon.
The space shuttle is the worst though, a proven mis-step. Before the system actually launched we were told that there would be a mission every week, launching every American satellite, plus many others from the rest of the world, recovering many exhaused & faulty satellites, and all of this cheaper than any other method of launching, because the orbiter itself was reusable, just fill it up again with it's internal fuel, hook it up to a stack, and relaunch.
Instead of this, we got much less than one mission a month, sometimes as little a 2 or 3 missions a year. Missions have been delayed for years because of problems. The orbiters aren't reusable, instead they're refurbishable. After each mission the engines have to be taken out, serviced, and reinstalled. All the heat protection systems have to be inspected and repaired.
Even with substantial subsdies, the shuttle was much more expensive than the alternatives, and commerical launches couldn't handle the risk of their launch being delayed because of a block on the whole system.
For recovering satellites, the realities were that the majority of satellites were simply unreachable by the orbiter, being thousands of miles outside of it's maximum orbit. Those few that were reachable were usually too dangerous to recover, something realized after they tried to cut the solar panels off a satelite to get it into the cargo bay - sharp pieces of metal and space suits do not mix. Even if a satellite is recovered, the pace of technology means that an old bird really doesn't have much value on the ground. You're better building a new one, with the latest features, than using an old one.
However the biggest problem was the basic concept. If you had continued to use disposible rockets like every other system in the world, then you can systematically improve each new generation of the system. The latest Arriane or Titan is much better than the originals. The latest shuttle launch is basically identical to the first one*.
If we'd had a different space program, we could be doing so much better.
* = Actually the first launch of the Challenger. Columbia's first launches were with less effective engines.