In the 50s, space travel was all possibilities. Most people just thought going to the moon was impossible. There’s something romantic about doing the impossible. Now we know that going to the moon is just expensive. That’s not nearly as romantic, but what an incredible leap forward: to go from impossible to expensive. Unfortunately for us humans, the job before us now is to go from expensive to reasonable. There’s no romance at all in being reasonable, but if we are to colonize space that is precisely what we need to be. Anyone can look at a $30 million dollar price tag for getting one person to the ISS for a week and conclude that large scale human migration off the planet isn’t in the cards right now. It isn’t. Multi-staged, disposable, chemical-fueled rockets were never going to get the job done for establishing a true space-faring civilization. That infrastructure, a true low cost freeway to space, looks as impossible to us now as going to the moon did in the 50s.
But we went to the moon.
Routine access to space isn’t going to look like a few people sitting on top of a skyscraper full of explosive propellants. It’s going to look very different. It’s probably going to look boring. That’s when we’ll know we’ve succeeded. When we’ve changed space travel from impossible to expensive to reasonable and finally to irritating we’ll know we’re a space-faring people.