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What is regarded as the current single biggest challenge/hurdle limiting space exploration?

Once that tipping point has past it would pave the way for future exploration to dramatically increase.

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    $\begingroup$ Like this answer says, The Tyranny of the rocket Equation (misspelled url and all). $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 6, 2017 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ They fascinating article refers more to current science rather than actual money and resources. Maybe as science moves forward, scarce resources on earth will become even more difficult to obtain and eventually be the critical factor. $\endgroup$
    – Iwheaty
    Dec 6, 2017 at 8:45

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It may likely be a simple one: Money. It's what killed the last 3 Apollo missions, postponed the JWST, and plagues NASA to this day. Financial shortages to the space agencies is like poor internet; it only slows things down. While public interest goes hand in hand with funding for space exploration, not having the cash to put up often cuts missions short or out entirely.

Historically, the hurdles were a little more interesting. Serious attempts were considered to use artillery technology to send men into space. Never forget Project Orion, the proposed method to use a small nuclear bomb to kick a spaceship forward. Working models were made, but it was just that: a nuclear bomb going off every few seconds. In 1958 a treaty was signed with the Soviet Union to agree to not have any nuclear wars in space, which kinda made Orion internationally banned, even if it was capable of speeds half that of light.

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    $\begingroup$ NASA doesn't lack money, it lacks focus. It has abundant recent history of starting one expensive project after another and then canceling it (Orion, Ares, to name a couple). Valuable missions NASA did, like Martian rovers, weren't expensive. With institutional focus on results and not on getting money allocated, they could've done much more. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2017 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ NASA has an over 30 year roadmap for all the planned programs they want to create. They have enough focus and leadership, but every single president since Nixon has decreased their budget. It's currently at .04%. And Orion was never cancelled, it's first missions are slated for next year! Yes, the Pathfinder mission was relatively inexpensive, but it only got a car the size of a shoe box to mars, and still cost 300 million. (personally I'm surprised you didn't mention the costly shuttle.) NASA is a government organization. They still rely on a slice of the government pie. $\endgroup$
    – Alex T
    Dec 6, 2017 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget shuttle was a key element in NASA's post Apollo space infrastructure roadmap. But due to budget the other elements never got built. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2017 at 11:56

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