The breakthroughs were right around the corner, they promised. Soon people would be taking regular trips to the cosmos, and the era of commercial spaceflight would finally become reality.
And so in 2004, the young space companies lobbied for an extended "learning period" that would allow them to develop their rockets and space vehicles without all of the burdensome federal regulations that would hamper innovation and prevent the industry from taking off.
They got their wish for a regulatory break, but the advances were slower to come by.
"It beats being at work!" glowed one Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manager at a taxpayer-funded conference last December. The FAA spent $5 million to send 3,600 employees to a "conference" in Atlanta, although "whistle blowers and critics say [the conference] was little more than an excuse...