So the space shuttle Discovery has flown its last mission. It's been towed over the nation's capital like a bruised Chevy after a demolition derby before being deposited at the Udvar-Hazy air and space musuem in northern Virginia.
Other space junkers—Atlantis and Endeavour—are being retired like Brett Favre in a pair of Crocs, too, bringing to end an underwhelming three decades of fruitless and tragic exploration of low-earth orbiting patterns.
Let's face it: Once we beat the Russians to the moon, the national rocket grew limper than Liberace at a speculum convention. NASA has been dining out on a single 1969 hit longer than Zager and Evans.
The good news is that amateur hour is now over and the private space race has begun. Where two Cold War superpowers failed, let a thousand business plans bloom!
The future of space is in the hands of the guys behind Amazon, PayPal, and Virgin. The force of competition will create endless possibilities and unimaginable technologies. No more talking about how the space program brought us Tang and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. We're going to Mars, baby, in business class.
Virgin's Richard Branson has already signed up more stars than there are in heaven and his regular press releases read like the headlines at TMZ: Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, and Angelina Jolie have all reserved space on the first civilian flights to the great beyond.
The International Space Station will continue as a government run intergalactic DMV, but at least the spaceships shlepping materials and mouthbreathers to and from it will soon be operated by private vendors—at an expected 90 percent discount. That should put plenty more celebrities—and civiliams—in the mood to join the 30-mile-high club.
The founder of BudgetSuites, Robert Bigelow, has already launched experimental modules and is dreaming of putting affordable hotels – complete with bedspreads soaked in alien DNA—in orbit and PayPal's Elon Musk has said he wants to die on Mars. Preferably in a colony established by SpaceX, his company that's hell bent not just on leaving Earth but getting to the Red Planet in style.
Nobody knows exactly how private space exploration and entrepreneurship will play out. But's its a lock that the next 30 years won't resemble our government-run space program's decades-long failure to launch anything more inspiring than Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.
About 2:30 minutes.
Filmed by Joshua Swain and Jim Epstein. Edited by Meredith Bragg. Written by Nick Gillespie and Kennedy, who also hosts.