Charles Bolden

The final frontier: cheap space travel

Coming on the heels of a couple of revolutionary rocket landings by SpaceX and Blue Origin, the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., was abuzz last week with talk of a new golden age of space travel. Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who also heads private space firm Blue Origin, compared the advent of reusable rockets to the Internet and the national highway system, opening the door to an explosion of commercial space activity.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden asked his audience to chant "Mars matters" as he ticked off the benefits of flying to the Red Planet.

Underlying all these ambitious projections is a new space race — to...