12/02/2014 03:51 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

A Different Kind of Space Story

In recent years, it seems that the allure of space has once again captured the minds of a generation. Absent from this new wave is the strong government directive of the Apollo era, but in its place is the awakening of the individual, and a private industry who sees possible the democratization of space and the expansion of Earth's economic sphere. As with every frontier broken before it, space comes with a unique stack of barriers to entry, cost and safety not least among them. However, as legendary science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once reminded, "out of this could come something else for all of mankind -- hope!"

I consider it my job to stay abreast of developments in commercial space: both the exciting and the disappointing. I've found the past decade to be overwhelmingly positive, and I have lost count at the milestones and triumphs that would have so greatly impressed Robert and reinforced his unwavering commitment to the commercial space industry. I've had the pleasure of witnessing the triumphs of individuals like Felix Baumgartner and Alan Eustace, the historic achievements of companies like Scaled Composites and SpaceX, and the incredible collaborative achievements of nations, such as the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, which stunned the world with the success of it's Philae lander on Comet 67P.

The path to the stars has been sought from the dawn of humanity, and it is appropriately long and arduous. As with all goals of grave importance, it requires fortitude and commitment in spite of inevitable setbacks. There will be plenty of bad weeks, deflated by delays, anomalies, or budget. There will be tragic weeks, like the one we so recently experienced. But those who continue on this path in spite of those weeks are in pursuit of truly great ones, the week when the first commercial crew will launch to the International Space Station and reinstates U.S. access to orbit, or the milestone week in the near future when we can reflect that we have more than doubled the amount of humans who have ever journeyed into space, in the entire history of mankind. Or perhaps the week during which the first asteroid is mined, and the week we unlock the new global achievement of in-space resource utilization. These are the weeks, and the hopes for mankind, that are worth fighting for.

There will be those who support these efforts and there will be those who discourage, and unfortunately, there is only so far the two may walk in parallel. Inevitably, the road bifurcates. Once again, I remember a dictum of Heinlein's: "we are at a cusp, a decision point. We can decide to go one way, to the stars, and enjoy unlimited opportunities, unimagined possibilities, endless evolution, and eternal racial life. Or," he warned, "we can refuse the challenge, stay where we are -- and die."

We choose the stars, and we carry on.