We are moving very quickly towards an era where access to space is not reserved for government space programs but is widely available and affordable to private enterprise and even individuals. This capability will effect us in much the same way as the airplane did when the DC-3 made private air travel safe and affordable in the 1930’s.

This effect will be for both good and bad. On the one hand, space offers unlimited power and resources. In space, you can build really, really big and multi-gigawatt, 10-mile-long solar power satellites, beaming power back to Earth via microwave beams, have been shown to be quite feasible and even cost effective (given reasonable launch costs such as are being developed by SpaceX). One nickel-iron asteroid could provide enough rare-earth materials to supply Earth for decades.

On the other hand, space is the ultimate military high-ground, and a society that has access to space doesn’t <I>need</I> nuclear weapons. It’s not accidental that the Chinese are seriously pressing forward for a lunar base. If you control the orbitals, you control Earth.