Mankind has been to space on many occasions, but those were highly trained individuals making the trip. For so many years the world has stopped looking up to the stars. As a species we no longer care what’s out there, and there’s no more money to boldly go where no one has gone before. Essentially we’ve decided that it was cool while it lasted, but the space program has lost its appeal.
I can’t help but be reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama series where mankind encounters an alien craft in our solar system, and is thus enthralled with exploring space for centuries. The discovery and exploration of Rama by Commander Norton and the crew of Endeavor sparks an unparalleled wonder in mankind. But despite having been on an alien craft, the funding and interest soon wanes. As if the simple fact of being in space is not amazing enough.
But there are people still interested in space travel, and perhaps the next great step for mankind is not a manned mission to Mars. Instead it may just be the introduction of commercial space flights. Mega billionaires, conglomerates, and dare devil rich boys of every ilk have shown an interest. Then the talk became real as some of these guys began to invest in and build spacecraft.
Now some years later we’re on the precipice of normal citizens (with obscenely large bank accounts) getting to ride up and spend time on the International Space Station. NASA Space Flight gives a detailed account of how things are progressing. It comes down to this: we may have people in space in December, but for sure we’ll have commercial space flights progressing in 2012. We began the trek into space decades ago, but now we as a whole species are on the verge of breaking through the atmosphere and becoming true space farers.