Space Shuttle program, the broadcast of Star Trek: TNG, M.A.R.R.S. and their music video and the Hubble telescope were all a perfect recruitment tool for the school kids in the 80's and 90's who now works for SpaceX and other companies. It’s a standard natural cycle that’s about to be exploded.
A natural cycle? Indeed. Burt Rutan described such in his 2006 TED talk (He really gets into it at about four minutes) This was also before the economic crash of ‘08 so his Virgin Galactic optimism might be a bit high:
Recapping that, the people doing the amazing things today grew up watching the amazing things in their childhood. I’m 44 (2018) and When the Challenger exploded, I was almost 13. The first Space Shuttle took off when I wasn’t yet 8. I drew a lot of spacecraft pictures, and cars, and planes, but space? It was a huge part of my impressioned youth. Back up. WW1, every kid watching that got involved 20 years later for the next cycle. WW2, Apollo program, Shuttle Program, Today’s enthusiasm for Mars. It keeps going. My young girls saw the launch of Falcon Heavy. Thank god they’re aware of their world right when private space companies are in play because NASA’s Orion program ain’t getting any play in the news.
Let’s not forget the Challenger disaster in 1986 that stalled any Shuttle flights until 1988. It showed how dangerous space still was. Reusable spacecraft? Whaaaaat? They go to the grocery store in space and come back. Done. No danger. Well, surprise. This injected the drama of the mysterious and dangerous space travel into our minds. The event exploded NASA and spaceships all over the world. In case people weren’t paying attention to science in space, they were now.
So if someone isn’t science-minded, or an English or Economics major, people still got involved. Who wrote the Sci-Fi novels and TV shows in the 50's and 60's? Who re-developed TNG for the 1987 first broadcast? Battlestar Galactica in 1978? Whose running the finance departments of today’s private satellite and space contract companies? The promotional and sales areas? The kids who saw it growing up and are interested.
So enjoy the future because not only are we off on a big push for progress without a government cutting funding (because it’s private money!) but with the advent of an ‘anything you want accessible right effing now’ culture, we may no longer have natural cycles but a break-through. One of a constant development push. Every experiment has a live feed and documentary. Not one thing is popular at any one time today. Everything is popular all of the time.
The cycle now can only be a constant from this point forward. Fiction held extra-solar planets as a given. Before Kepler’s 2009 mission we had no idea if an extra-solar planet even existed. Think about that. It discovered over 1,000 with over 3,000 candidates by 2015 and we’re still sifting through its data with bigger and better and more bad-ass software. Moore’s law applies to computers doubling performance every eighteen months and it’s still correct. That performance runs deep into our space science today. Without a cyclical break coming, we will see a huge leap of progress and knowledge. We’re about to see what the Hubble replacement will show us with all that computing power behind it. We have SpaceX swinging the biggest Gorilla in the room, soon able to land big shipping containers full of awesome on Mars or farther. Politicians be damned, we’re going without them. They can get on board if they want but the great space coaster is leaving the station ready or not.