Some of us having been waiting even longer...
I got an application for the "Journalist in Space" competition, but the loss of the Challenger ended that program. Even after that, I learned to fly and began writing about flying for regional and local aviation periodicals. As soon as I had a few publications, it was easy to goto local airports displaying the "Learn to Fly Here" sign and offer to write up them up. I got in a lot of extra time that way and tried several planes more interesting than the usual Cessna 165. Most people do not realize how many airports there are. Every county has at least one public strip -- or had... sometimes prosperity closes them as developers buy the land around them or the even airport itself for subdivisions.
Pete cites several serious impediments to the extension of space travel. I suggest a conspiracy theory that no private firm would be allowed to do this because the coterie of governments would pressure them. Instead, we have the current situation of private launch vehicles serving government efforts, or approved private efforts, such as communications, geographic monitoring, etc.
Aside from that, the mechanical barriers alone are significant. There is no easy way to lift off. Anti-gravity would be better, of course, but we don't have that. Also, in the great age of colonization, losses of ships at sea were not immediately experienced by everyone else around the world. If a ship was late, it might be lost, or just late... Just for one example, Alexander Hamilton's daughter was on a ship that was lost. It was a coastal runner, from Charleston to New York. They never found any wreckage. It just never made port. That is not the same thing as the losses recorded and televised by the USA and USSR.
Then, there is the sad possibility that our civilization is just running out of energy. I don't mean oil. Rise and fall, birth and death, they happen to people and to peoples. We do recover, of course. But it is cold comfort to think that in 2417, this will all be behind us as we argue new problems involving colonists in the Oort Cloud competing for resources and creating new technologies and discovering new sciences.
I recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, Alan Steele's Orbital Decay, and Bruce Sterling's Schizmatrix as glimpses of likely future moments. But, of course, the point is that we should have been there now.
Collectivism costs. There is no way to deny that. As much as I dislike Murray N. Rothbard, he was cogent about Power and Market. Every decision made for power rather than for market carries a costs, a deadweight loss. And that's for benevolent things like roads. We spent 100 years at war. Every bullet made took some part of the future away from us. Wars, of course, do not just happen, but are caused by deeper errors in epistemology and metaphysics. The counter-examples are telling. It is claimed that fascism leads to war. Yet Portugal and Spain coexisted as neighbors for 50 years without firing a shot. Of course, they both were (and are) dirt poor. Peaceful. But poor. No space programs...
(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 7/24, 4:21am)