Seriously.. Indominable Human spirit, the lust for adventure, a legacy of exploration - all good and fine, but who is going to pay for it? And why should they?
Going into space cost incredible amounts of money. The little we're doing (yeah, the ISS is very cool, but at least 10 years behind schedule, and they (NASA et al) practically have to scour the streets of Florida for soda cans to get funding) keeps things moving ahead slowly, because of the few visionaries in positions of authority.
For the most part, if there is no profit to be made, it doesn't get done. Profit will only come from finding exploitable resources or government contracts.
Resources would have to be sedan-sized diamonds to be profitable - maybe the ISS will find something out about the creation of new alloys, pharmaceuticals, etc... But it's nothing that can not be modelled on a computer - sending up stuff only after it is shown as viable..
Government contracts will only come from two sources, the DoD and National Pride. Exploiting space for military purposes is bad karma - besides, without an 'alien threat' all the DoD cares about is ballistic trajectories anyway, they have that already. Anything smart and strong enough to come to get us (if you're crazy enough to believe in aliens) is unlikely to be bothered by us in the first place, so why even mention outward-pointing guns?
Which leaves National Pride. The greatest strides in the exploration of space were made when we were competing with the Soviets. Yes, the Apollo program is a work of brilliance and incredible complexity, but due to the pressure to 'get there first' it was held together with duct tape by comparison to the anal compulsion that binds the ISS together. It was exciting because of the break-neck schedule laid down by Kennedy, because there wasn't time to consider everything, because it wasn't about getting paid (sometimes at all) or accounting for assets or getting all necessary approvals. Guerilla exploration, just like guerilla programming, creates great things, but is unsustainable.
In an era of cooperation, there can be little healthy competition. No competition, no motivation. No arms race, but also no space race.
So we're left with the indominable human spirit, the lust for adventure, a legacy of exploration, and the costs of realizing those lofty dreams. The only ones with the money to do this are the governments - who are doing it, albeit slowly, because geeks occupy a few leather chairs somewhere - and corporations - whose primary responsibility is to the shareholders. Shareholders may like great strides, but only if these drive up the stock price and pay dividends. And going someplace big and empty just does not hold a promise of profit.
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