When the shuttle program ends, it will be the end of the US manned space flight program.
I think this is probably the real summary - the USA basically can't afford space operations beyond satellite launch/maintenance anymore. Nerdy dreams to to the contrary, it's all over.
The torch will be passed to someone else, probably in a decade or two. Likely the Chinese, but who knows.
"Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside desperate to get out." -- Montaigne