The human philosopher Plato once said: "Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another." For much of its recorded history, humanity has indeed looked to the night sky and dreamed of venturing to the stars. However, after the historic NASA Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the drive for crewed space exploration slowed as government funding dried up. The move towards cheaper unmanned probes and orbital stations gained traction instead, as one of the central obstacles was the expense of creating first-stage booster rockets that would be lost after each flight.
But the lure of sending people into the cosmos never lost its draw. In the early 21st century, a private company called SpaceX pioneered efforts in sustainable space travel by developing a reusable launch system. It revolutionized the field as the first entity, government or private, to successfully launch and then safely recover an orbital booster rocket intact, allowing it to be reused in future launches. Reusable hardware placed lower-cost, sustainable space travel within reach.
Galvanized by SpaceX's achievements, a renaissance in space exploration followed. Reusable launch system technology later became pivotal in establishing the European Space Agency's first permanent settlement on Mars, Lowell City, in 2103.