It took thousands of years for Europeans to develop the technology and the will to explore the New World. Another half a millennium went by before Americans reached the Moon. Little more than a decade from now, humans could physically escape the Gravity Well.
By 2030, we can have a small working colony of humans on the Moon.
By that same date, we can be mining ice and precious metals on asteroids.
By 2040, we can have a colony on Mars.
By 2050, we can have probes on other, more habitable celestial bodies, more new worlds. All within the lifetime of some readers. We are not done. We have barely begun.
Which raises the question on everyone’s mind: Is it worth it? To move beyond the Gravity Well and create those human outposts beyond the Well will take a combined effort by nations, our own government, and private industry, with an annual budget of about $30 billion. This is a great deal of money, even in an economy worth $18 trillion. The amount NASA needs is comparable to someone with an income of $60,000 spending $100 on space. This is still serious money. Besides that, the effort itself constitutes enormous risk to human life.
If we limit our discussion to economics, however, most economists will tell you that a fully funded space program is eminently worth the price. But that misses even more important benefits.
In the next post I'll describe those benefits. They're greater than you might think.