While most of history has yet to be written, our future descendants may find themselves whining about memorizing the names from the "Early Space Renaissance" of the 21st century.
Although this is not a complete list, here are some of the figures who may find themselves recorded in the solar history books (not to mention having a million space kids being named after them).
George W. Bush: Whether you love him or hate him, President Bush will probably go down in history for announcing the Vision for Space Exploration (or VSE for short).
NASA's previous vision of infinitely circling our globe and forever observing the stars (from afar) will probably be an embarrassment for our current generation, although hopefully the President's VSE will give NASA the courage to conquer the final frontier.
Eric Anderson & Peter Diamandis: Just as the Wright Brothers helped to "kick start" aviation, Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis have helped to kick start space tourism by forming Space Adventures.
Space Adventures helped launch the very first space tourist into orbit, kicking off a whole new industry that is destined to thrive in the next three to four years. Both Peter and Eric took the discussion from "talk to action," proving that space was more than a privilege of governmental elites.
With future plans to launch Earthen citizens around their lunar neighbor, Space Adventures may give governmental programs a run for their money.
Robert T. Bigelow: If Space Adventures can be credited towards getting private citizens into space, Robert T. Bigelow can be credited towards actually keeping us there.
In 2006, Bigelow Aerospace launched the world's first (of hopefully many) inflatable space station, displaying that the private sector could not only design a better, cheaper home amongst the heavens, but also generate a profit on the side.
Although constructing inflatable space stations is in itself incredible, Bigelow's entry into space may be over shadowed by the companies attempt to help humanity colonize the moon.
Sir Richard Branson: Some people consider Sir Richard Branson to be ingenious. Other consider him to be closer to a mad scientist. Whatever your take, Branson may have the last laugh as his company Virgin Galactic is destined to bring space safely to the (moderately wealthy) masses.
Branson's goal of making space apart of Earth culture may be paying off, as several other space firms have announced plans to launch customers into sub-orbital flights. But what sets Virgin Galactic apart from the competition is the companies emphasis on safety, which should easily put it in the lead if (God forbid) a crash occurs in the industry.
Branson also seems focused on not merely sending people into orbit, but having them check into space hotels by renting one of Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space station.
Elon Musk: After making a billion plus fortune by selling off PayPal to Ebay, Elon Musk decided to spend his riches on helping humanity become a space faring civilization. Thus SpaceX was born.
Although SpaceX has yet to put up a satellite successfully into orbit (along with a host of other companies), what makes SpaceX unique is their desire to drop the price of launching objects into space from around $10,000 /lbs to $1,000/ lbs.
After successfully launching an object into space on a test rocket, SpaceX seems destined (if not determined) to see humanity on not only the Moon, but Mars itself.
Dr. Bradley C. Edwards: If a building a modern day space elevator is ever feasible, this man will be credited towards coming up with the design plans.
After spending years in the realm of science fiction (or perhaps even fantasy itself), Dr. Edwards helped demonstrate the feasibility of this project, which (if successful) will revolutionize the way our species interacts with the solar system.
Edwards has recently started a company called Black Line Ascension whose end goal is to construct a space elevator, although only time will tell whether his research (and vision) will result in this object being built towards the heavens.
Michael Laine: If Dr. Brad Edwards can be credited towards making the space elevator doable on paper, Michael Laine may be credited to actually building it in on our homeworld.
Have previously worked with Edwards, Michael Laine founded LiftPort, this company seeks to construct a space elevator within the next 25-30 years. What makes LiftPort unique in its field is the fact that this company is seeking to chart its course within the private sector, refusing to rely completely on NASA for funding or guidance.
Only time will tell whether or not Michael's vision of a planet where space is "open for everyone" will materialize. Either way, this man's passion and determination to persevere despite the circumstances have inspired many to look towards the heavens as their future homes.
You: Our quest to conquer off world soils has just begun, and there may still be many spots open for ordinary citizens to say their lines and partake on the solar stage of history.
Note: Due to lack of time, images will be added later on to this post.
Update (6/21): Added images and corrected some wording.
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