Earlier this week, Virgin founder Richard Branson hitched a ride into space to become the first billionaire to take advantage of his own, home-grown hardware, and in a couple of weeks, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to do the same. For years, we've watched a handful of companies set up the infrastructure to shuttle people and equipment up and down in a more cost-effective manner.
Human spaceflight has long been a complicated endeavor. The scientific missions launched into space in the 1950s and 1960s were a thin coat of paint tossed over the efforts on the parts of both the United States, Soviet Union (and their respective allies) to find better ways to deliver nuclear payloads to enemy targets, in the event that a nuclear war broke out. While the space program brought thousands of jobs that advanced scientific understanding and brought about practical technologies, there was a persistent feeling amongst political circles that sending astronauts into space was draining funds from other social programs.