When Sputnik 1 an unmanned rocket (1957) built in Russia made it into outer-space and then a manned one in 1961 (Vostok 1) the world was awe-struck and who would not have been? (https://aerospace.org/story/brief-history-space-exploration)
In 1958 NASA was founded and the US sent the first satellite into space, Explorer 1. (https://aerospace.org/story/brief-history-space-exploration) This satellite was supposed to capture data and direct it back to earth for analyzation especially the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding the earth. (https://www.space.com/38700-nasa-history.html)
Alan Shepard became the first US man to be launched into space in 1961 and then John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962. John F. Kennedy was instrumental in helping to attach significance to these programs, i.e. the Gemini and Mercury, and ushered in a new era for technology and innovation that previously was not there. He pressed to make a manned flight to the moon within a decade and we did. Sadly, he was not around to see it.
Apollo 1, in 1968, claimed the lives of three astronauts, but that did not stop us from further pursuing our adventures in space. (https://www.space.com/38700-nasa-history.html) Finally, we reached that lofty objective that JFK spoke about with Apollo 8. The Apollo 8 mission was made even more grand by the eloquent words of Neil Armstrong in 1969 as he set foot on the moon’s surface for the first time “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”. (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong) And he was right!
By 1972 we had sent off six manned flights to the moon. (https://www.space.com/38700-nasa-history.html) Skylab was launched the following year. Eventually, the USA worked alongside Russia to bring man to space for extended periods of time.
In the 1980’s the numerous space shuttles were born allowing larger numbers of astronauts and even some lay people to experience space flight on a semi-regular basis. (https://www.space.com/38700-nasa-history.html) Then came the Challenger (1986) and the Columbia (2003) disasters. These disasters were probably unavoidable given the sheer number of flights these shuttles were taking, 135 in all with over 300 astronauts participating in those programs. The participants willingly signed on knowing the dangers of these experimental flights. They were pioneers, trail blazers of sorts. We thank them for their service.
And then it ended.
With all of that rich history behind us do you think that Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, and Sir Richard Branson, serial entrepreneur, would be investing in space if there was no future there? I dare say not!
As of today, September 24, 2018, Elon Musk tweeted that he intends to have his mission to Mars and the building of a base there along with the Big Falcon Rocket by 2028 at the latest. (https://www.designboom.com/technology/elon-musk-spacex-mars-mission-09-24-2018/) Ambitious? Audacious? Yes, but he will do everything in his power to make it happen.
While Virgin Galactic, the brainchild of Sir Richard Branson, is not as far along as the bold Mars plans of Elon Musk it does not diminish the fact that space travel and exploration ought to be funded and invested in with fervor.